The move is an attempt to encourage the beginning of project construction by the end of the year. But the bridges project still faces hurdles including the Kentucky General Assembly, which must still approve of Beshear’s $50 million allocation a year for the two-year budget, and ultimately $300 million over the next six years.
“That level of financing I think will be acceptable to the General Assembly,” Beshear said in a press conference Monday morning.
The agreement signed Monday lays out both states’ financial plans for their roughly $1.3 billion project. Kentucky is responsible for a new I-65 Bridge and rebuilding Spaghetti Junction and maintaining the Kennedy Bridge. Indiana will be responsible for the new East End Bridge (pictured) connecting Utica, IN and Prospect, KY.
“I think everyone who has contributed, and will, to this ought to feel a tremendous sense of pride. And hope that maybe others elsewhere will take some instruction and maybe some inspiration from the example our two states are setting today,” said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Under the plan, Indiana and Kentucky will split the tolls from the three bridges evenly. Tolls would not start until the first new bridge is completed and they would remain in place until the bridges project was paid off. The rates could be adjusted as the states see necessary, including reducing the projected rates proposed, said Beshear.
“Tolling is not our preferred financing option. It’s the only way, I’ll emphasize that, the only way this project will get built,” said Beshear.
As it stands, commuters in cars, SUVs and other passenger vehicles using transponders devices the cost would be in the range of $1 to cross. Tolls for others would be $2, with panel trucks in the $5 range and tractor trailers paying $10. These ranges, said Beshear, are “probably pretty accurate,” but are subject to change.
The two states have chosen different paths for completing their respective projects. Kentucky has chosen a design build contract, which gives the contractor control over the creativity and construction of the project. Indiana has chosen to bid for a concession agreement where a contractor will design, build and maintain the bridge over a period of time while receiving availability payments back.
“Indiana’s request for qualifications goes out Friday with a short time fuse. When those come back we’ll pick a short list and we expect to have a contract before the end of the spring,” said Daniels.
Kentucky and Indiana both held informational meetings for lead contractors last week. They expect to narrow the list to a few eligible candidates this spring and to bid and accept the lead contractor in the fall.
Both states have already put millions into the project, which is still named in a pending lawsuit with conservation group River Fields. Board president Lee Cory wrote to WFPL:
“We are still in mediation, which means we are in the process of seeking a solution. However all parties have agreed not to discuss any details of the mediation process.”
The project is expected to be complete by 2018, officials said.