28

Jun
2014

The High Cost of Toll Rates

Northern Kentucky Commuters will Pay Most of the Tolls

The emphasis of the debate on the use of tolls to fund a new Brent Spence bridge has centered on the cost to NKY commuters. It is estimated by Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) that 63-65% of the traffic that crosses the current Brent Spence bridge are commuters from NKY going to work over in Cincinnati. Therefore the preponderance of the cost for a new Brent Spence bridge will fall on the backs of NKY commuters.

The use of tolls requires the Kentucky General Assembly passing the legislation that allows public-private partnerships (P3). The legislation allowing P3’s did not pass due to Governor Beshear’s veto in the 2014 legislative session. It seems he didn’t approve of Rep. Arnold Simpson’s (D-Covington) amendment that disallowed the use of P3’s for funding a new Brent Spence bridge (The Big Business Agenda for Tolling, 2014). Since the failure of the P3 legislation to pass there has been little discussion as to setting specific toll rates. Therefore speculation exists as to what cost a NKY commuter or a trucking firm would incur to cross a new Brent Spence bridge going to and coming from Cincinnati to work every day.

Cost of Tolls for a Commuter?

The best estimates for the initial toll rates for a new Brent Spence bridge can be obtained from a Kentucky Highway report’s recommendations for the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville. The Ohio River Bridges Project involves building a new bridge between Prospect, Ky., and Utica, Ind., the Interstate 65 Kennedy Bridge and a new downtown span next to it. The recommended toll rates are illustrated below:

  • Drivers can open prepaid accounts to get the best fare. The account is charged either by reading the transponder from overhead sensors or by snapping a picture of the license plate.
  • Drivers without prepaid accounts pay the highest tolls. Their license plates are photographed and bills are sent to their address.
  • $1 for passenger cars, light trucks and SUVs that make frequent trips across the river and pay with a transponder.
  • $2 for passenger cars with a transponder that cross fewer than 20 times in a month. Other passenger cars would pay $3 if they have an account, but no transponder. Those with no account would pay $4 for each crossing (Tolls set for Ohio River Bridges Project, 2013).

The High Cost of Tolling for a NKY Commuter

An analysis of the cost of tolling to a NKY commuter working in Cincinnati was conducted applying the initial toll rate recommendations for the Ohio River Bridges Project. Several assumptions were necessary to conduct the analysis:

  • There are 260 week days in a year.
  • Seven of those days are major holidays reducing the number to 253 working days.
  • The standard amount of vacation for relatively new employees is two weeks further reducing the number of working days to 243.
  • Commuters originating in NKY will cross the bridge at least twice per day going to and from work which increases the number of times tolls will be paid to 486 times per year.

Using the number of tolls paid per year by the toll rates recommended for the Ohio River Bridges Project, the cost to a NKY commuter can be seen in the table below.

The Annual Cost of Tolls for Commuters Traveling the Brent Spence Bridge

Toll Rate

Working Days

Cost Per Annum

$1 Frequent with Transponder

X 486

$486

$2 Infrequent with Transponder

X 486

$972

$3 Account with no Transponder

X 486

$1,458

$4 No account

X 486

$1,944

According to the analysis the minimum annual cost to a NKY commuter for the initial toll rates will be from $486 to $1,944 per year. That cost will increase due to the report recommending that toll rates would increase 2.5 percent each year (Tolls set for Ohio River Bridges Project, 2013).

Cost of Tolls for Trucks?

The same report recommended the following toll rates for trucks crossing the bridges in Louisville.

  • $5 for box trucks and other medium-sized trucks with a transponder; $6 if those vehicles have a license-plate account; and $7 for those without a prepaid account.
  • $10 for heavy trucks such as tractor-trailers with a transponder; $11 if those vehicles have a license plate account; and $12 if they have no prepaid account (Tolls set for Ohio River Bridges Project, 2013).

The High Cost of Tolling for Truckers

Using the numbers from the analysis for commuters, the cost for trucks crossing the Brent Spence twice a day can be seen below

The Annual Cost of Tolls for Trucks Traveling the Brent Spence Bridge

Toll Rate

Working Days

Cost Per Annum

$5 Medium-sized trucks with transponder

X 486

$2,430

$6 Medium-sized trucks account with no transponder

X 486

$2,916

$7 Medium-sized trucks no account

X 486

$3,402

$10 Heavy trucks with transponder

X 486

$4,860

$11 Heavy trucks account with no transponder

X 486

$5,346

$12 Heavy truck no account

X 486

$5,832

According to the analysis the minimum annual cost for trucks crossing the Brent Spence Bridge twice per day ranges from $2,430 to $5,832 per year. The cost of tolls will increase the cost of products since distribution costs will be passed on to the consumer via the price of the product. In other words consumers will be covering the cost of their tolls too.

Can NKY Residents Afford Much More?

The results of the analysis show that the NKY commuter and truckers will spend a veritable fortune on tolling per year if the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Build Our New Bridge Now coalition have their way. This cost is in addition to the other taxes and rates imposed on us by the special districts in NKY (Nickel and Dimed by our Special Districts, 2013). For example the average cost of sewer and stormwater treatment by SD1 for a home with three to four rooms will be roughly $474, a rate that has risen 291.8 percent since 2000 after adjusting for inflation, according to an Enquirer analysis (NKY sewer rates going up 4.9%, 2014). Since 2003, water rates have increased by 71% for the customers of the Northern Kentucky Water District (The NKY Water District Waterboarding, 2013). Are the residents of NKY going to be able to afford much more?

What can you do?

Recently Covington Mayor Sherry Carran, Northern Kentucky Chamber Interim President Brent Cooper and Chad Day, executive secretary of the Greater Cincinnati Building & Construction Trades Council, spoke before a committee of lawmakers in Frankfort advocating for state legislation allowing private financing of public projects, also known as P3, which includes tolls as an option (Covington mayor: Tolls probably needed for new bridge, 2014). They apparently think it’s okay if the cost of a new Brent Spence Bridge fall on the backs of NKY commuters working in Cincinnati.

The residents of NKY should reach out to the NKY Chamber of Commerce and let them know what they think about tolling. Their contact information is below:

Name

Phone Number

Email

Trey Grayson, President & CEO

859-578-8800

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Jill Shuller, Executive Director

859-578-8800

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Adam Caswell, Vice President

859-578-6386

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Kevin Donnelly, Manager

859-578-6391

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