The public body that oversees Kentucky and Indiana’s RiverLink tolling system on Monday approved a change that gives drivers a new way to pay their bridge tolls and promised to address customer service “shortcomings.”
The six-member tolling body met for the first time this year, following a meeting of the four-person joint board, which also met for the first time this year. The board ultimately oversees the Ohio River Bridges Project and tolling system.
The new payment method is in development and would allow drivers to look up and pay their tolls online using their license plate number only. Currently, drivers must set up a RiverLink account or wait for a bill to come in the mail with an invoice number.
“I think this will be an option that will be very popular,” said Mindy Peterson, a spokeswoman for RiverLink during the meeting.
Scott Adams, director of tolling operations for the INDOT, told the board that RiverLink is working on a “get-well plan” to fix tolling problems, including sending out incorrect bills and long waits to reach customer service representatives.
By January, RiverLink tolling system will have added 42 new customer service representatives to help cut down on call times and deal with customers’ questions and concerns, said Peterson. The bridge toll collector plans to hire another 40 customer service representatives beyond that next year.
At the end of November, RiverLink had recorded 27.5 million crossings across all three tolled bridges. The average daily wait times last week for customer service ranged anywhere from 1 minute to 28 minutes.
“There have been some shortcomings, especially when it comes to customers service, and the additions and changes being made should have a big impact and an impact very quickly,” Peterson said.
The joint board members are: Dan Huge, Indiana’s public finance director; William Landrum III, secretary of the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet; Joe McGuinness, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation; and Greg Thomas, secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. All four also serve on the tolling body, along with Kerry Stemler, president and CEO of KM Stemler Co., and Charles Buddeke, a member of the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority.
In the joint board meeting, the members unanimously voted a change to its bylaws to say that the board will meet at least once annually, or more often as needed. The bylaw previously stated that the board would meet quarterly.
During the subsequent tolling body meeting, the body approved a resolution that will, among other things, permit RiverLink to waive bridge tolls when a traffic incident forces drivers to be rerouted from a non-tolled bridge to a tolled bridge. Drivers will have to call RiverLink to dispute the toll, and RiverLink will verify the disruption in traffic flow with the appropriate agency, such as the highway patrol.
The resolution also permits the development of a software that would allow drivers to look up and pay their tolls online using just their license plate number.
Before the resolution was unanimously approved, Stemler raised a concern about possible glitches.
“I just want to make sure that it is fully vetted and tested with accuracy before we roll something out,” he said. “Given the challenges that we’ve had, the last thing any of us want to do is put something else in place that won’t work.”
Megan McLain, innovative finance manager for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said the software would be tested and retested before it debuts. The ability to pay with a license plate won’t likely come until next summer.
Following the meeting, members of both boards directed all media questions to Peterson.
When asked how often board members are kept apprised of RiverLink operations, Peterson said they are provided with RiverLink’s quarterly reports and their questions are answered as they arise.
“There are bi-state tolling representatives who work on this project each and every day who are staying in very close contact, not only with those folk but also with KYTC and INDOT officials,” she said. “Tolling is a very important process, and both states want to see this system operate as efficiently as possible, so there are a lot of discussions taking place.”
The tolling body is not required to meet each year regarding tolling increases. A resolution was passed previously that automatically increases the tolling rate by either 2.5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is greater, each fiscal year.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the minimum amount that tolling rates will increase. It is 2.5 percent.