Thursday, April 5th, 2012
Update 4/6: The organization behind the polls has put up a web site with raw data and more findings from their scientific survey.
Update 4/6: Later reports with more specific data from this poll show that the actual ratio is 74% of the local traffic is Hoosiers, not 80% – still a stunning ratio. The pollster estimates a slightly lower ratio of toll revenue to Indiana – 70%, though it’s not clear how they did this math. And finally it looks like Southern Indiana officials are waking up to the fact that they are going to get pimped on this deal. Remember folks, you heard it here first.
Indiana and Kentucky transportation officials have tried mightily to avoid talking about the breakdown of cross-river traffic in Louisville, a crucial piece of data to have in determining who will actually pay for $2.6 billion in two new bridges if it is done largely through tolling. But a new scientific, independent poll released today exposes that Hoosiers will pay four times as many tolls as Kentuckians because that’s how many more trips back and forth across the river they make compared to Kentuckians. In Clark and Floyd Counties, residents actually make five times as many trips as Kentuckians. This means that of all the local bridge tolls being collected, Hoosiers are going to pay 80% of them. This explodes the idea that Indiana and Kentucky are splitting the cost 50/50, which is already ridiculous as it stands.
Only about half of area residents supports tolling to pay for the bridges, which is surprising considering that most of the people are in Kentucky and they are paying next to nothing comparatively. Hoosiers seem wise to this game however, as only 36% of residents of Clark and Floyd Counties approve of tolls.
To recap: The two states were able to reduce the cost of the overall project by $1.5 billion, but Indiana gave away $1.7 billion to Kentucky, meaning its share of the costs actually went up by $200 million. Indiana also agreed to built a 1.4 mile approach road and tunnel in Kentucky for $795 million – a staggering $100,000 per foot – that is now the most expensive highway project on Indiana’s books.
I always knew tolling would be bad for Indiana, but now we know how bad. I wouldn’t mind if Hoosiers were paying for the East End bridge that makes sense (minus the gold plated, fraudulent tunnel on the Kentucky side of the river), but to pay for nearly the entire project is ludicrous.
I’m on record as being a Mitch Daniels fan, but he’s clearly screwed up badly on this one. He seems desperate to put another feather in the cap of his legacy by getting yet another highway project that had been stalled for years actually built on his watch. But the cost to Hoosiers here is just too high. He’s throwing his own southern Indiana constituents under the bus with this one by cramming a horrible business deal and tolls they don’t want down their throats. It’s time to change course big time before a terrible mistake gets made.