Cost Cutters

Louisville & Southern Indiana
Bridges Authority pursues new plan

Scaled-down version of plan
to reduce cost from $4.1 to $2.9 billion


(August 2011)
Read previous Don Ward columns!
Don Ward

A new $103 million bridge is being built over the Ohio River between Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind., in what to many area residents may have seemed like forever in getting designed and funded. Construction on a two-lane bridge to be built on the existing but rehabilitated piers began in earnest in January, and the project is slated for completion in fall 2012.
But 50 miles downriver in Louisville, the effort to design, fund and eventually proceed with a $4.1 billion bridges project is taking even longer to accomplish. However, progress was made recently when Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer met and ironed out a revised, more affordable plan, with the help of the recently formed Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority.

Bridge Rendition

Rendition provided

The East End Bridge and tunnel
to be built in Prospect would be
reduced from six to four lanes to
help cut costs by $174 million.

Obviously, the Louisville bridges project is much larger in scope, involving a new northbound, six-lane downtown bridge (yet to be named) and a rehabbed southbound-only Kennedy Bridge, plus a new East End Bridge and tunnel connecting the Gene Snyder Freeway in Prospect, Ky., to the Clark-Maritime Highway in Indiana (See www.kyinbridges.com).
The project has been debated and studied for years and delayed primarily because of the exorbitant cost and lack of money to pursue it. But this recent effort to scale down the project has received positive reaction during public hearings held in June. Now a supplemental environmental study is being conducted as part of the approval process to move the revised plan through the political and funding channels.
The revised, scaled-down version reduces the number of lanes from six to four on the East End Bridge and tunnel planned in Prospect, according to a presentation made July 28 to a group of Oldham County Chamber of Commerce members.
The scaled-down version of the East End Bridge and tunnel is estimated to cut $174 million – or 30 percent – out of the overall project cost. Ohio River Bridges Project Manager John Sacksteder and Bi-State Bridges Authority Executive Director Steve Schultz took turns presenting an overview of the revised plan to the group during a breakfast meeting at the John W. Black Community Center in Buckner.
Schultz said that by using a “Design-Build” approach with the contractor to building the bridges would also provide savings by cutting the estimated 12-year construction time in half.

Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority Logo

In 2003, the full project was initially forecast to cost $2.5 billion. But with inflation over the passing years, the estimated cost ballooned to $4.1 billion. That price tag became both politically and financially unfeasible. But the recent effort by both states to pare down the project by $1.2 billion seems to have political legs and is moving ahead – especially given the growing amount of traffic on the existing infrastructure in future years.
The new plan is estimated to cost $2.9 billion and includes a consideration of “no-stop high speed tolls” on the two new bridges and the proposed rehabbed Kennedy Bridge. The tolls would be automatically assessed on motorists using pre-paid toll sensors and video cameras to record the license tags of those passing through with no pre-paid sensors. Tolls are being estimated to cost $1-$2 for cars; $2-$4 for box trucks; and $4-$8 for semi-trucks.

East End Bridge Map

No tolls would be placed on the existing Clark Memorial Bridge (Second Street) or the Sherman Minton Bridge that crosses into New Albany, Ind.
Other changes to help cut costs included removing the planned pedestrian walk since the Big Four Bridge, a pedestrian crossing between Louisville and Jeffersonville, has since been developed.
Meantime, a five-year study on the East End Bridge and corresponding 2,000-foot tunnel to route traffic from Hwy. 42 under federally designated historic property to the Ohio River resulted in a “Record of Decision” in 2003. That decision called for reconfiguring “Spaghetti Junction” and building two new bridges and the East End Tunnel. Since then, a local environmental group, River Fields Inc., has sued to stop the tunnel. Sacksteder said that the second environmental study now be done on the revised bridges plan must address all concerns in the lawsuit and be approved by the Federal Highway Administration and the judge presiding over the lawsuit.
Sacksteder said the Bridges Authority hopes to push the revised project along quickly because time is money considering the rising inflation costs. They hope to complete the supplemental environmental study on the revised bridges plan by April 2012, offer the project to bids soon thereafter and hold an August 2012 groundbreaking for the ambitious project.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.


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