Ohio River Bridges Are More Than Just a Waste of Money, Says Critic
In a piece on his blog, Aaron Renn writes about the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project, which he says he was skeptical about back in 2007 when the proposal was first floated.
After taking a closer look at the traffic data, he says the outcome is even worse than he imaged. “The project has proven to be a money waster of the highest order, and in fact by far the biggest American transportation boondoggle I can identify in the 21st century so far,” says Renn.
The Interstate 65 bridge is a parallel span connecting Louisville, Kentucky, to Jefferson, Indiana, and it doubled the number of lanes across the river. The East End Crossing is a new bridge built up the river from downtown Louisville. The price tag for each bridge was $1.38 billion, and both crossings added tolls to help cover the project costs. The result, says Renn, is that traffic shifted to the two free bridges in the area, and the number of vehicles on the I-65 bridge dropped 50 percent between 2013 and 2018.
He also argues that expanding the crossing in downtown Louisville sliced up the area in detrimental ways. In addition, he points to data showing that truck traffic on the I-65 spans dropped by over 30 percent. “Where did they go? If you are a region that’s banking on the distribution industry for a big part of your future blue-collar employment growth, the tolls on these bridges can’t be good news. That’s particularly true when no surrounding competitor city has tolls.”
Renn says the bridge project made no sense, both from a transportation perspective and a fiscal one. And at a time when states claim funding for transportation projects is tight, pouring money into a project like this one, while better projects fall by the wayside, is problematic, he says. “This boondoggle didn’t happen by accident. It wasn’t a result of ignorance. It was well known in advance that it was a bad idea. It was a deliberate, conscious choice.”