Mayoral candidates react to Louisville residents' views on bridges, tolls and jobs

08/11/2010 09:49 PM

Louisville voters most want the East End Bridge built and a majority would prefer not paying more than $2 in tolls, according to a new cn|2 poll.

The poll, which surveyed 502 likely voters in the Louisville area, asked whether only the East End bridge, only the Downtown bridge, both bridges or neither bridge should be built. More than half — 50.3% — said they most want to see only the construction of an East End Bridge built.

The cn|2 Poll in Jefferson County/Louisville was conducted Aug. 9 and 10 by interviewers from Braun Research, Inc. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. Click here to read the complete results and cross-tabs for the answers to questions regarding the Louisville mayor’s race and key issues facing the metro area.

Republican Louisville mayoral candidate Hal Heiner has touted building the East End Bridge first since the start of the general election, largely because lack of available funding for the multi-billion-dollar Ohio River Bridges Project.

Democratic candidate Greg Fischer agreed with that sentiment in a separate interview. But he stressed the importance of carrying out the entire project: the East End and Downtown bridges as well as a reconstruction of Spaghetti Junction.

Danny Briscoe, a Louisville-based political strategist, said the cn|2 Poll results show that Heiner has struck the right chord with his message that the East End Bridge should be the first priority.

“This is an issue that will help Heiner. The East End Bridge, that’s what people want,” Briscoe said. “Everyone wants an East End Bridge and they’ve wanted it for over 20 years.”

Beyond the overwhelming first choice of the East End Bridge, the cn|2 Poll showed:

  • 17.3% of respondents favored building just a Downtown Bridge
  • 14.5% favored building both bridges
  • 10.1% said neither bridge should be built.

Bridge tolls over $2 not favored

For weeks, both Heiner and Fischer have insisted that if tolls were needed to pay for the bridge projects, they should be kept as low as possible. Perhaps not surprisingly, voters in Louisville seem to agree. Of the 502 respondents, 48.5% favored a one-way toll of $1 or less to cross any bridge across the Ohio River. And another 21.7% said they’d be willing to pay, at most, between $1 and $2 one-way fares.

Of the rest, 10.2% said they were OK with a $2 to $3 one-way toll. Just a small fraction said they’d accept paying above $3. And about 12.8% said they wouldn’t be willing to pay any toll at all.

Fischer, the Democratic candidate, said he wouldn’t prefer tolls but still supports the full bridges project.

Heiner said the high tolls could cause Louisville to lose tourism and business revenue, which should be enough to cause area leaders to reconsider the scope of the project if it comes to that.

Briscoe said he was glad to hear that the number of people who didn’t want any toll at all was small, considering toll roads are used across the U.S.

“I’m encouraged by those numbers,” he said. “Everywhere I go I pay tolls, up east, on the way to Hilton Head, Florida has tolls. If that’s how we have to pay for road improvements, that’s what we have to do.”

Economy, job creation chief concern of Louisville residents

With an unemployment rate that hovering around 10 percent, Louisville residents view job creation as the No. 1 issue facing the city right now.

The Ohio River Bridges Project came in a distant second, with 12.5%. No other issues garnered more than 5%. They were:

  • Public safety at 4.2%.
  • Public transportation at 3.9%
  • Downtown development at 3.4%
  • And government transparency at 2.6%

Both mayoral candidates have touted their record as businessmen, with Fischer using his experience in creating start-ups and Heiner pointing toward Commerce Crossings, a business park in southwest Louisville (disclosure: cn|2 Politics’ parent company Insight Communications has offices at Commerce Crossings).

Abramson still popular as mayor

Out-going Louisville mayor Jerry Abramson still has large support, with a net approval rating of 72.3%.

Only 24.5% net disapproval for Abramson, who has spent the better part of the last 20 years as mayor, first in un-merged Louisville and since merger occurred. Only 11.4% strongly disapprove of the job Abramson is doing.

- Kenny Colston


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