Imagine how a local newspaper might be functioning as tolling approaches. Imagine the hard questions a reporter might be asking of local officials. Imagine the dialogue that might be engendered.
Keep imagining, because we have no newspaper in New Albany.
Meanwhile, it still isn’t clear what the city of New Albany’s official position will be with respect to the issues discussed in Green’s piece. We suspect servile silence, but only because it’s what we’ve been conditioned to expect from Jeff Gahan, but note that if the council president’s uninformed opinion is any indication, we might be better off with no opinion at all.
… “Talking to a lot of people that I know, they said they’re going to change their route of going to Indiana and coming around the Sherman Minton and ride all the way around to avoid paying a toll,” said Natalie Neil, who lives in the Shawnee/Chickasaw neighborhood in western Louisville.
Neil said she uses the Minton twice a day for trips to New Albany. More traffic on the bridge is troubling, she said, because there’s “a lot of increase already.”
Traffic on those structures in Floyd County is expected to increase by as much as 118 percent in the coming decades. Indiana plans maintenance and repair work on four of the overpasses before 2018, according to the state.
The state also aims to paint and maintain the Sherman Minton Bridge within the next four years, said Will Wingfield, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation. The Minton was closed for about five months in 2011 and 2012 to fix a crack in a load-bearing beam.
This means that very soon, we’ll either lose the Sherman Minton for an extended period, and/or see it tolled. But here’s the important part (emphasis mine).
Opponents of tolling interstates often cite traffic diversion as a side effect of tolls and rate hikes.
“Tolls are often easily evaded, usually by motorists who are using an alternative route that unfortunately was not built to handle the level and type of traffic experienced due to that toll evasion,” said Stephanie Kane, spokeswoman for the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates.
After reviewing projections showing increased traffic on the Minton, she said ambulances and other first responders could face delays getting across the river on I-64.
With the Minton remaining toll-free, traffic passing through New Albany is expected to double in the decades to come. Mayor Jeff Gahan did not return a phone message seeking comment, but council president Patrick McLaughlin said “it’s something that’s been constantly on our radar.”
McLaughlin stopped short of agreeing that traffic will rise at the levels predicted by INDOT, but he said any increase could give the city an economic boost.
“When trying to judge human nature,” he said, “no one really knows how that’s going to pan out.”