Tolls collected across the Ohio River’s three tolled bridges amounted to $106.3 million in 2018, up from $80.1 million in the first year of tolling, according to new numbers from tolling authority RiverLink.
The 2018 number does not include the payouts of $4.3 million expected from E-ZPass systems in other states.
Of the more than $180 million collected as of Dec. 31, 2018, late fees have accounted for roughly 10 percent of the total revenue overall, or around $18.6 million, according to a RiverLink spokeswoman. In the last six months, that percentage ticked up to 11 percent of the revenue collected.
If a toll invoice is not paid within 30 days, a late fee of $5 is added onto the bill. Another $25 is added after the second month, and if the bill isn’t paid in three months, another $30 is added. If the driver is from Kentucky or Indiana, he or she may have the car’s registration held until the fees are paid.
The amount of late fees has remained fairly steady since the start of tolling in late December 2016. In September 2018, RiverLink added a new payment option to allow drivers to look up tolls using their license plate number and pay them before receiving an invoice in the mail.
The money is split evenly between Kentucky and Indiana state governments, with a portion of it going to pay off the debt owed for the construction of the Abraham Lincoln Bridge and the Lewis and Clark Bridge and renovation of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge. Kentucky’s total debt service for 2018 was $23 million; that amount goes up to $28.4 million this year.
Remaining funds also can be spent on maintenance of the bridges or project area.
So far, tolling revenues have exceeded expectations. The consulting firm Steer Davies Gleave predicted in 2016 that tolls would bring in about $33 million in revenue in the first year and not exceed $100 million until 2020.
The amount of tolls collected has trended up along with the traffic on each bridge. There were 32.3 million crossings on the three tolled bridges in 2018, a more than 8 percent increase in traffic compared to 2017, according to RiverLink.
The bridges saw the highest average crossings in on weekdays during the third quarter of 2018, with average out to 101,558 crossings per week.
The number of RiverLink accounts jumped 29 percent, or 43,000 accounts, to more than 193,000 accounts in 2018 compared with 2017. The tolling authority also handled 91,000 requests for transponders last year.
“It takes time for people to adjust to new travel routes and a new tolling system,” Megan McLain, innovative finance manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said in a news release. “The increase in crossings and account growth tells us that more people are using the system in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible in this second year of tolling. With prepaid accounts and transponders, they’re paying the lowest toll rates every time they cross a tolled bridge.”
Drivers with prepaid RiverLink accounts and transponders pay between $2.05 per crossing for 2-axle vehicles and $10.25 per crossing semi-trucks and other vehicles with five or more axles. Those without a transponder or a prepaid account are charged between $4.10 and $12.30.