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.
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
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.
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.
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.