The I-69 Ohio River Crossing Project Team has two public hearings scheduled for next week, one Monday in Henderson and the other Tuesday in Evansville.
The project team recently named Central Alternative 1 its preferred route for the Interstate 69 toll bridge.
The proposal also calls for the removal of the southbound U.S. Highway 41 Twin Bridge.
The key decision now is whether the remaining Highway 41 bridge will be tolled.
“Certainly public comment is a big part of that decision making process, but it’s not the only part," Mindy Peterson, project team spokeperson, said. "We have to make the numbers work.”
Bridge finance details
According to financial analysis in the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) released in December, tolling both bridges would cover around 40 percent of the bridge's capital cost, an estimated $1.497 billion.
"There is still a big funding gap," Peterson said. "If you talk about tolling only the I-69 birdge, that gap grows even more because you're only covering about 20 percent of costs."
Peterson said the team is looking at other financing options as well, like federal grants.
"We know that there's probably going to be a strong desire...to lessen the toll burden as much as possible," Peterson said. "But it also has to work out on paper with the math so that we can get this project built."
Project team members will not be the ones determining toll rates. A two-state commission will make that decision. The group has yet to be formed.
Peterson said the project team ran a lot of numbers in its analysis, but the ballpark estimate of the toll cost for a passenger vehicle with a prepaid account is two dollars. She doesn’t expect that number to change much. The figure is based on the tolls of three bridges in Louisville, according to Peterson.
She said the number of axles on a vehicle will probably influence the cost of the toll. Drivers without an electronic account set up would most likely pay more as well. That's because an invoice would need to be sent to the address of the vehicle's registered owner. In the DEIS analysis, Peterson said a driver of a passenger vehicle without an electronic account would pay four dollars.
Peterson also said there would be ways to lower the financial impact of the toll on drivers if the I-69 and Highway 41 bridges have a toll. These include a commuter rate and a possible discount for low-income drivers. Peterson said there would be fewer options if only one bridge is tolled.
How can I comment?
Federal law requires the project team to gather public comment before it publishes its final impact statement. The team is holding a public hearing Monday at the Preston Community Arts Center on the Henderson Community College campus. The following day, the team will be at the Old National Events Plaza in Evansville.
Both events start at 5 p.m. and are scheduled to run until 8 p.m. The project team will put on a presentation at 6 p.m. After the presentation, the public can sign up to address the project team, who will stay until everyone signed up has had a chance to speak.
Public comments will also be accepted online and via email at info@I69ohiorivercrossing.com. Comments can also be submitted in person at or in the mail to the project team's Evansville and Henderson offices. The public comment period ends Feb. 8.
The project team will issue its final environmental impact statement, or FEIS, after it has gone over all public comments.
The final decision is expected to come from the Federal Highway Adminstration toward the end of this year.