State and local officials in Kentucky are urging that tolling be explored as a way of funding the speedier construction of an I-69 corridor through the state, noting that it may not be built for decades in the absence of such funding.
"People in Frankfort, including me, are just interested in seeing if the public is at all receptive" to the concept of tolling, said Steve Cave, chief of staff to Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
"If folks are not interested in tolls to have a new bridge, that's acceptable, too, but we'll have to explore different ways to finance it."
"Your first preference would be that it not be [a toll road]," Kevin Sheilley, president and CEO of Northwest Kentucky Forward economic development agency in Henderson, said. "But the reality is, what's it going to take to get it built? I'd rather have the road a toll road than not have it all."
The officials are pointing to plans in Indiana where the governor, Mitch Daniels, is urging building I-69 as a tolled facility between Indianapolis and Evansville. The timetable on that work currently would start in two years and end a decade later, the Associated Press reported.
In Kentucky, by contrast, funding an I-69 corridor is not included in the state's new six-year highway plan, except for a financing-related study for an I-69 bridge over the Ohio River.
Current cost estimates, including upgrading parkways to interstate standards and building a new bridge across the Ohio River between Evansville, Ind., and Henderson, peg the price at $800 million. Signs on some Kentucky parkways now identify them as the "Future I-69 Corridor."
Henderson County Judge-executive Sandy Watkins said he's positive about tolling. "We've got to get out of the box we've been living in. We've got to look at the bigger picture and how to finance it," he said.