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Public Comments Taken On Bridges Financing Plan

Residents from both sides of the river and on both sides of the bridges issue turned out Monday to comment on the Ohio River Bridges Project. The Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority held the meeting to gather public opinion on an updated financing plan. It calls for tolls to pay for about half of the 4.1 billion dollar project, which consists of two new bridges and a reworked Spaghetti Junction.

The Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority heard from the public Monday on a new proposal to pay for half of the bridges project with tolls. Dozens of people on both sides of the issue turned out for the meeting.

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“I’d pay a toll if I had a job,” said Chip White as he stood outside of the meeting. “It’s amazing how you can afford a toll if you’ve got a job.”¬†White is a carpenter. He favors tolls and almost anything else that will get construction started on two new bridges over the Ohio River and a reworked Spaghetti Junction.

“We need the infrastructure,” he said. “We need those jobs. It’ll be better for the community.”

Inside, architect Steve Wiser logged his comment with the authority. He wants the project to be scaled back, so tolls are only used to pay for new infrastructure.

“I’m not against tolls, but I am against tolls on all the existing bridges,” he says.

Authority members were available to talk with attendees, but all comments were taken online, in writing or dictated to stenographers. Wiser did not like the format.

“I think it is pretty pre-arranged as to how they want to accept comments here. So it’s not your typical public forum. I think they have a pre-arranged agenda for this meeting.”

The authority has not decided to toll existing bridges, but would need federal approval to do so. The body will vote Thursday on the financing plan, which relies on roughly two billion dollars in tolls to help pay for the project. Authority members say toll details will change if more money becomes available from the government or other sources.