Agreement Calls For Divided Funding, Oversight of Bridges Project

by Erica Peterson on December 29, 2011

Kentucky and Indiana have agreed on a funding plan for the Ohio River Bridges Project. The plan splits the funding—and oversight of the project—down the middle.

Under the plan, Kentucky will be responsible for the new I-65 bridge and improvements to the Kennedy Bridge and Spaghetti Junction, as well as Indiana’s approach to I-65. Indiana will oversee the East End portion of the project. The states will use traditional transportation funds as well as tolls to pay.

The final project is projected to cost $2.6 billion—$1.5 billion less than the plan that was originally proposed. Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock says he thinks the financing plan is fair to both states.

“I think that with the money that Indiana’s bringing to the table and with the money that Kentucky is bringing and the tolls that will be generated, we think that this is very much a financing plan that ultimately will prove fair for both states and ensure that we meet the financial obligations of the project,” he said.

The plan undercuts the main task of the Ohio River Bridges Authority, which was formed to finance and oversee the project. Hancock says the authority will still play a role—by coordinating and monitoring both parts of the project.

“The bi-state authority will be producing a financial plan that will encompass both bridge locations and will utilize all of the information from the states,” Hancock said. “So we feel the bi-state authority is still very much viable and still very much doing what they were intended to do.”

Hancock says the best case scenario is that bidding will begin next fall, and construction could begin by the end of the year. The authority previously hoped to begin construction next August.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman John Yarmuth both praised the deal.

“This appears to be fair and reasonable for both states, and splitting up the project lowers costs for everyone,” Yarmuth said. “With this hurdle cleared, the next major step is for the Kentucky General Assembly to approve the plan.”

Beshear called the agreement an “enormous step.”

“By playing to each state’s strengths, we are lowering the cost of the project, increasing competition, and speeding the construction of these critical bridges,” he said in a statement. “I appreciate Gov. Mitch Daniels for his efforts to bring this project to fruition, as well as the work of both states’ transportation leadership and the Bridges Authority.”

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