Bridges Authority Optimistic About Start Date

by Dalton Main on March 31, 2011

Members of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority are optimistic they can meet previously-set goals for the Ohio River Bridges Project. That’s despite potential delays and changes to the project.

Earlier this year, Mayor Greg Fischer and the governors of Indiana and Kentucky proposed ways to scale back the project to reduce its projected $4.1 billion cost. The changes, however, will require a new environmental impact study. The authority’s finance committee met Wednesday and is still awaiting details on the study from the federal government. The study has not yet begun, but authority co-chair Kerry Stemler says construction is still slated to begin next year.

“I think the most important fact is we stay and maintain that target date of beginning construction in august 2012,” he says “Every milestone we’ve put out there, we’ve hit to date. So we continue that.”

The authority is also waiting on details of traffic studies. The proposed changes to the project are expected to save about $500 million, but the cost could change again. A financing plan is not yet complete, but a preliminary plan estimated that about half of the project could be paid for with tolls. The bridges project includes two new bridges over the Ohio River and a reconfigured Spaghetti Junction.

In January, officials proposed shrinking the project to bring the price down from $4.1 billion to $3.6 billion. A forum was held last month to look at ways to further cut costs. Tentatively, about half of the project may be paid for with tolls, but authority co-chair Kerry Stemler says that could change.

“Let’s stay real focused on the end game which is to reduce costs to the least possible amount which in turn will reduce the user fee or toll to the least possible amount.”

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