Traffic on tolled bridges increased in March, but still below estimates

Abraham Lincoln Bridge. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The number of vehicles crossing the RiverLink system of tolled bridges across the Ohio River significantly increased during March, but the average daily traffic remains well below what was originally projected.

RiverLink’s spokeswoman Mindy Peterson issued a press release Monday stating there were 2.6 million vehicle crossings in March — including the Lewis and Clark Bridge in the East End and the Lincoln and Kennedy bridges along I-65 — which was a 15 percent increase from January. Though the average number of weekday crossings only slightly increased by 4.2 percent in February, this average increased by 7.8 percent in March to 89,489. The average number of weekend crossings also increased by 17.6 in March to 67,530.

Despite the increase last month, the average daily crossings has a ways to go before reaching the projected estimate of 110,000 by the end of 2018, which was factored into the tolling revenue model for Kentucky and Indiana to pay down the construction bond debt and keep up maintenance of the bridges.

While daily traffic only surpassed 100,000 crossings on three days, the RiverLink press release stated that traffic on the tolled bridges “is expected to continue to increase in coming months, especially during the busy summer travel months.” RiverLink went on to state that the $8.6 million in preliminary revenue collected from tolls during the first quarter — to be split evenly between Kentucky and Indiana — is “in line with expectations, and both states are meeting their financial obligations for the Bridges Project.”

RiverLink also stated that an additional $6.8 million of revenue will be received from drivers with transponders based in other states, and that additional money is still being collected from drivers who crossed without a transponder. Peterson told IL that RiverLink’s expected revenue for the first six months of 2017 is $32.9, which should be achievable as traffic increases heading into the summer months.

Over 107,000 RiverLink accounts were opened by the end of March — allowing drivers to have the lowest tolling fare of $2 — a 37 percent increase from the beginning of the year. Over 232,000 local transponders had been given out by the end of March, amounting to a 65 percent increase in that same time period.

While traffic was expected to increase on the non-tolled Clark Memorial Bridge and Sherman Minton Bridge, Peterson tells IL there is no real-time count of traffic on these bridges. Though she has anecdotally heard that such traffic has increased, she noted that traffic is moving well on these bridges without backup. Peterson added that there will be a formal traffic study on theses two non-tolled bridges later this year.

Correction: The original version of this story did not specify that the projected 110,000 daily crossing is for the end of 2018.