Modern Tolling Solutions
Quickly delivering a new, modern and expanded Brent Spence Bridge - and the nearly eight miles of I-75 that comprise the bridge's corridor - is vital not only to the region but to the country's economic future.
It's also critical to improving safety and quality of life measures for local residents who use the bridge daily for work and play in Northern Kentucky and Downtown Cincinnati.
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) recently completed an Options Analysis (OA) to evaluate the type of funding that will deliver the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project better, faster and cheaper than the $2.6 billion price tag that is currently estimated.
This OA objectively compared various traditional and alternative delivery methods available to implement the project. For more on the outcome of the OA study, visit our Document Center.
This project brings into stark relief a very real problem: Adequate funds do not exist to replace and refurbish the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor using traditional funding methods. Mounting infrastructure needs and anemic funding are forcing communities across the nation to look to innovative alternatives to deliver projects like the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor.
In fact, nearly all billion-dollar mega-projects currently under consideration in the United States contemplate tolling as their means of funding.
Tolling may be the only opportunity the commonwealth of Kentucky and the state of Ohio have to build this bridge before the year 2040. Therefore, it is crucial that the community understands what tolling is - and what it is not.
|Myth #1:||Toll roads require toll booths for the collection of the fare.|
Long gone are the days of motorists pulling up to a booth, fishing around for quarters to pay the fare, then waiting for the security arm to rise before proceeding. Today's toll roads use sophisticated, efficient technology that allows motorists to pay tolls while driving at highway speeds - without stopping and waiting.
Any toll collection system used on a new bridge will be a state-of-the-art, all-electronic tolling facility. This "open road tolling" technology relies on electronic tolling gantries, or frameworks, that stretch over the roadway and assess the toll as vehicles move beneath it. No one has to stop or even slow down for the toll to be collected.
There are two primary forms of tolling technology in use today. Automatic vehicle identification systems use electronic transponders to deduct the toll from a pre-paid account as motorists pass under the tolling gantries, while video capture systems use specialized cameras and lighting units to capture license plate numbers.
While there are advantages and disadvantages, both allow motorists to avoid long lines and congestion previously associated with outdated toll roads.
|Myth #2:||Tolls will cause traffic delays and accidents.|
Because today's tolling systems allow motorists to pass through at regular highway speeds, motorists no longer have to slow down or switch lanes when approaching toll booths, drastically reducing delays and accidents. In addition, toll road operators are financially motivated to maintain and operate roadways as safely as possible.
In the case of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor, the bridge itself - today a major chokepoint for the entire region - will expand from eight to 16 lanes. Between advanced tolling systems and more capacity, traffic delays are expected to decrease up to 80 percent along the new Brent Spence Bridge Corridor. Accidents will decrease as well, because dedicated lanes for local and through traffic will improve traffic flow and eliminate the need for motorists to rapidly switch lanes to access Covington or Downtown Cincinnati exits.
|Myth #3:||Tolls are simply another form of a tax.|
Tolls are not another form of a tax. A toll is a user fee. A tax, on the other hand, would be applied to all residents in the Greater Cincinnati area, regardless of whether they use the Brent Spence Bridge.
|Myth #4:||The federal government is supposed to pay for this kind of project. The money has to be there somewhere.|
You're right: State and federal gas taxes are collected expressly to pay for infrastructure projects like the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor. But the reality is that the gas tax simply isn't raising sufficient funds to support America's highway infrastructure; even when gas prices fluctuate, the federal gas tax remains a flat 18.4 cents per gallon of gas sold.
This outdated funding model forces every megaproject to rely on innovative financing - like tolls - to pay for themselves. Even if the gas tax was increased, those gains would be eroded by increasingly more fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles. Meanwhile, tolls offer a realistic alternative that can build new roads and maintain existing ones in a highly cost-effective way. To learn more, listen to this podcast from NPR: Freakonomics: Doing a U-Turn on the Gas Tax.
|Myth #5:||Tolling the Brent Spence Bridge will produce huge income for whomever manages it.|
When a department of transportation enters into a tolling agreement, they sign a mandate that puts specific limitations on toll rates. The toll rates are governed by the contract and can have well-defined increases tied to specific economic indices. While tolling does produce a steady stream of revenue, income generated from tolls is typically used to support the upfront construction costs, as well as a continuous level of ongoing operations and maintenance. Revenues do not go into a "slush fund" that would be used for other infrastructure or economic development projects. Furthermore, the tolls create a dedicated revenue stream to keep the bridge in a state of good repair so that safety and high-quality service become permanent fixtures of the new crossing.
|Myth #6:||Tolling is unfair to low-income motorists.|
Studies have shown that motorists of all income levels use toll roads. With a well-designed pricing structure, tolls may actually be more cost effective than variable costs, such as vehicle registration and license fees.
|Myth #7:||Tolling will drive more traffic to other highways or local roads in order to avoid tolls.|
The introduction of tolling will produce some diversion of traffic onto alternative roadways; however, the new Brent Spence Bridge will offer a safer, faster and more reliable route across the Ohio River, making it more attractive to local, regional and long-distance motorists. Truckers in particular would benefit from fast, direct routes and increased capacity along the entire corridor. Research has also shown that most drivers who divert to other roadways eventually resume their original route because it saves time.