A longtime Southern Indiana businessman told Indiana officials during a Tuesday public hearing for the Ohio River Bridges Project that businesses in western Clark County will be "devastated" by the addition of tolls on Interstate 65.
Mike Kapfhammer, co-owner of Rocky's Sub Pub and Buckhead Mountain Grill on Riverside Drive in Jeffersonville, estimated that 40 percent to 50 percent of his customers cross the river from Kentucky without paying a toll. He doesn't believe many will buy toll transponders if they only travel to the Hoosier state for dining or shopping.
"They don't need us," Kapfhammer said. "We need them."
He was one of four people commenting about the latest economic impact study done for the Indiana Finance Authority at the Sheraton Riverside in Jeffersonville. No one spoke publicly during a similar hearing at the University of Louisville's Shelby Campus.
The study, performed by Boston-based consulting firm Economic Development Research Group to satisfy Indiana law, acknowledges there may be a loss of retail sales in Jeffersonville and Clarksville as new development shifts from the Interstate 65 corridor to eastern areas off Lee Hamilton Highway.
"This will not be a net loss of retail sales to Indiana, but rather a potential shift in sales from one area to another," the report states.
The study, an update to a similar one also released by Economic Development Research Group in April 2012, analyzes the project's overall impact on Clark and Floyd counties in Southern Indiana, as well as Jefferson, Bullitt and Oldham counties in Kentucky.
Kapfhammer questions why the latest study doesn't provide a financial breakdown of the negative financial affects along the I-65 corridor.
Paul Fetter, a Clarksville town councilman who has led the fight against tolls, said the previous study was done before initial toll rates were set, meaning those polled couldn't provide informed opinions.
The previous study estimated $230 million to be drained annually over 30 years from businesses along I-65 in Jeffersonville and Clarksville with that money being offset elsewhere.
Fetter also has been urging state legislators for business tax credits to help keep transportation companies from splitting their operations between the two states to avoid tolls, as several have indicated.
Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, directed his comments to the finance authority, saying it should continue to monitor tolling procedures and measure hardship on commuters.
Grooms and Fetter said afterward they hope to be able to gain the attention and support of other legislators in Indianapolis in the coming months as biennial budget discussions start up ahead of the 2015 General Assembly.