- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Kentucky and Indiana will exempt local mass-transit buses from electronic tolling on new Ohio River bridges and distribute free transponders for low-income and minority residents.

Such residents of the greater Louisville metropolitan area won’t be exempt from paying the tolls, which will be $1 each way for frequent commuters. However, signs will go up showing them how to reach the toll-free Clark Memorial and Sherman Minton bridges to cross the river under a plan the two states agreed upon Thursday.

Under the plan, the Ohio River Bridges Project will distribute free electronic transponders at retailers in low-income and minority neighborhoods in southern Indiana and Louisville. Residents of those neighborhoods will be able to create transponder tolling accounts with balances as low as $20.

Tolls will be exempt for buses of the Transit Authority of River City, which many low-income residents rely on for transportation.

“Not only myself, there are a lot of other people that live over here that have to commute back and forth,” Jeffersonville resident McNeil Wynn told the News and Tribune.

The mitigation plan is a federal requirement for the $2.3 billion project.

“From our view, these were implementable solutions that bring the greatest benefit to the community, particularly things like no tolls for TARC buses,” Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said. He went on to say, “Ultimately had we charged the TARC buses, there could have been the potential for TARC to have to adjust their rates in order to accommodate that.”

In Indiana, the low-income areas include downtown Jeffersonville and New Albany, pockets of Floyd County and areas near Interstates 265 and 65.

Tolls will go into effect when the project is completed in 2016.

Greg Henderzahs, executive director for the Center for Lay Ministries in Jeffersonville that serves low-income residents, praised the TARC toll waivers.

“Really when you focus in on my clients, the people who are here getting food from the pantry, a big portion don’t even have transportation, and the transportation they use is TARC,” Henderzahs said.

Already in place before Thursday was a $20 million commitment from Indiana and Kentucky to TARC to buy more buses and vans.

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