By Maggie Thurber | for Ohio Watchdog
TOLL BRIDGE: The Ohio House as approved a measure that would allow for tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge that carries I-75 traffic between Ohio and Kentucky
Hang on to your change. Tolls may be coming to the Interstate 75 bridge over the Ohio River.
The Ohio House approved a measure Wednesday that would allow “all-electronic tolling” on the Brent Spence Bridge, which has carried the Interstate-71/75 corridor traffic between Ohio and Kentucky for 52 years.
But not everyone is happy with the plan, including some lawmakers in the northern part of the state.
House Bill 533 would allow cameras to be placed on the bridge to photograph the license plates of cars traveling across. Invoices for the toll would be mailed to owners or renters of the vehicle. The amount of the toll is not specified in the bill.
Ohio’s prohibits establishing tolls on existing non-toll roads in the state, thus the legislation.
Still upset over a measure that allowed the state to bond revenue from turnpike tolls to fix roads and bridges far away from the turnpike, Rep. Ron Gerberry, D-Austintown, urged a “no” vote.
He said the $1.5 billion turnpike toll bonding measure was a “revenue source out of my constituents” and suggested the state bond 25 percent of the Brent Spence Bridge toll revenue to fund other transportation projects in the state in return.
“I’m sorry I’m so emotional, speaker, but I still think that turnpike bill stinks and I think this one has a little stench, too,” he said prior to the vote.
Rep. Terry Boose, R-Norwalk, was a bit more practical.
“In northern Ohio we don’t want tolling, either, but we got it,” he said. “If it works for the norther part of the state, it should work for the southern part of the state.”
AET systems are widely used across the nation, Jerry Wray, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, told legislators in previous testimony on the bill. He said the technology is either in use or planned for 30 projects in 14 states. The Brent Spence Bridge was designed to carry 80,000 vehicles a day but now handles about 180,000. That’s expected to climb to 200,000 vehicles a day over the next several years, he said.
Wray addressed privacy concerns, noting that protections are included in the bill, which would set a limit of 180 days to keep the plate and registration data and make misuse of the data a criminal offense. Due process and transparency is needed for those who thinks they were charged in error.
The bill says people can appeal the invoice fee first to a hearing office and then to a municipal or county court. Anyone not paying the toll invoice would be subject to a “motor vehicle certificate of registration issuance prevention order,” which prevents registration of the vehicle cited and prevents the owner from registering any other vehicle.
The project cost is estimated at $2.6 billion, which would be shared between Ohio and Kentucky. Wray said the state applied for a low-interest federal loan to help with the funding.
The bill was sent to the Ohio Senate for their consideration.