Some members of the NKY CEO Roundtable today issued a statement in support of tolls to move the Brent Spence replacement bridge project forward. While I am in support of the positive public-private partnerships they describe, allowing non-commercial tolling in our region would set a dangerous precedent. Our public transit infrastructure is seriously lacking, and until it is all encompassing cars are still needed to support the movement of our workforce. An extra couple thousand dollars in tolls per year is one of the last things struggling families need – whether they live in Ohio and are expected to commute to Kentucky or live in Kentucky and are expected to commute to Ohio.
One valid argument for tolling is that the bridge carries 4% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year and not all of it is making a stop in the Cincinnati metro area. Well, modern bridge designs should already segment the right of way of large vehicles like semis, so if we must consider tolling, what if we consider tolling only heavy commercial traffic? Unbeknownst to most Cincinnatians, Ohio is part of the E-ZPass network (via the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission) so trucks passing through are likely to already have toll transponders and be used to paying tolls. Semis are a leading cause of bridge wear and tear, so it’s only natural that if anyone has to pay more as a result of years of Republican misappropriation of public funds away from transportation infrastructure, they should. In the end the toll cost would be passed onto the consumer anyways, but in the form of a fraction of a cent per unit increase in the price of the goods passing over the bridge rather than full dollars each workday. I know which I would prefer.