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Local News

National Attention for KY Lawmaker’s Opposition to Anti-Bullying Bill; River Fields Denies Delaying ORBP; DuPont Fined for Rubbertown Violations; McConnell Questions Obama’s Ohio Visit: Afternoon Review

Profiling a 14-year-old boy who committed suicide after years of alleged anti-gay taunts at school, CNN’s Anderson Cooper covered opposition to bullying legislation in Kentucky by highlighting state Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville, who believes homosexuality is a sin.

Leaders with the conservation group River Fields rebuffed a resolution introduced in the Louisville Metro Council that blames them for delays to the Ohio River Bridges Project. River Fields Board of Trustees President Lee Cory says city lawmakers and civic leaders are whipping up a mob mentality to demonize the group, adding River Fields is not responsible for the delays.

And in other bridge-related news, engineers say it will take another week-and-a-half to finish their inspection of the Sherman Minton Bridge. Then they’ll be able to determine how long it will take to repair the bridge and re-open it to traffic.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell questioned the motives of President Barack Obama’s planned visit to the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati, alleging it’s more about his re-election than solving the country’s economic woes. The span connecting Kentucky to Ohio was cited in Mr. Obama’s speech before a joint session of Congress earlier this month as an example of the country’s crumbling infrastructure needs.

And the Louisville Air Pollution Control Board voted today to approve a settlement between the city and DuPont for permit violations at the company’s Rubbertown plant. The board order fines the company $51,000.

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Local News

ORBP Rally, Ruling on Home Entry Case, Fischer Meets with Obama, Green Buildings: Afternoon Review

Prominent supporters of the Ohio Rive Bridges Project and members of the Louisville Metro Council held a rally today, supporting a resolution drafted Monday in reaction to the closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge, which was shut down September 9 after cracks were discovered in some load-bearing supports. They also blamed conservation group River Fields for blocking progress on the ORBP and ignoring the city’s infrastructure needs.

The Indiana Supreme Court, in a 4-1 decision, upheld the ruling of a lower court who held that citizens don’t have the right to resist police officers who illegally enter their homes. The ruling drew protests that it violated constitutional protections against illegal searches and centuries of common law precedent regarding homeowners’ rights.

President Barack Obama will visit the Brent Spence Bridge between Ohio and Kentucky later this week, and he’s issued an invitation to Mayor Greg Fischer to meet him there. Mr. Obama is travelling to rally support for and urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, which includes $50 billion in infrastructure funding. The mayor plans to stress to the president that the Ohio River Bridges Project needs to begin as soon as possible.

Green buildings are often seen as a luxury; many are costly and take years to recoup their costs in energy savings. But as energy prices rise, sustainable building methods are starting to make even more fiscal sense for all types of structures.

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Local News

ORBP Public Comments Being Accepted Online

The public comment period for the updated Ohio River Bridges Project continues until Friday, July 15.

The public comment hearings last week drew many who voiced their opinions about the project, but the ORBP is still accepting comments online.

You can access the comment form here: http://www.kyinbridges.com/contact-us/meetings.aspx

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Local News

Bridges Public Hearing Draws Impatience, Complaints About Tolls

The first of two public comment hearings on the Ohio River Bridges Project was last night  in Clarksville.

Curtis Morrison with Say No 2 Bridge Tolls was in attendance to criticize the process.

“I have an issues with this being called a public input meeting,” Morrison said “when the governors and mayor got together and come up with a plan and they’re wanting us to give input on their plan, in my perspective that’s a little backwards.”

Most comments were directed at the tolls, but some people just wanted the bridges built.

Assistant Chief of Administration for Louisville Metro EMS Roger Parvin was on hand to argue that the bridges are a matter of safety. He says the traffic volume reduction on current bridges and alternate routes would make EMS more effective, so his purpose last night was clear.

“Let’s get the bridges Built, it’s time for it, we’ve been talking over this for years now,” Parvin says “let’s get them built and get this city rolling.”

Construction is slated to begin in August 2012, but the Bridges Authority is still waiting on the results of the supplemental environmental impact study to develop a financing plan.

The next public hearing will be tonight  from four to eight pm at the Holiday Inn on Hurstbourne Parkway.  Anyone who signs up ahead of time will be allowed to speak.  Speakers are limited to 3 minutes and will be drawn in random order.

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Local News Politics

Opponents of Tolls Welcome Changes to Bridges Project

If a plan put forward by the mayor of Louisville and the governors of Kentucky and Indiana becomes reality, the Ohio River Bridges Project will cost $1.2 billion less than previously expected. And critics of the project are celebrating that news.

The proposal would cut two lanes from the east end bridge and change how Spaghetti Junction is rebuilt to accommodate a new downtown bridge. It would bring the total cost of the project to $2.9 billion. It was previously estimated to cost $4.1 billion.

Shawn Reilly with Say No to Bridge Tolls has long advocated steps to be taken to reduce the reliance on tolls to pay for the bridges. He says the latest savings make his goal even more realistic.

“We’re still hoping we can convince them to keep the downtown bridge toll free,” he says. “They’re getting pretty close in the numbers, where the chance only the east end bridge will be tolled. We’re going to try to focus on that, but this is still great news for the community.”

Previously, officials were planning to use tolls of up to two dollars to pay for half of the project. Reilly says if tolls can be dropped to under one dollar, that would be a victory for his organization.

A fundraising plan is not yet complete for the project, but a spokesperson for the mayor’s office says absent a sudden influx of federal assistance, tolls will still be necessary.

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Local News Politics

Proposed Changes to Bridges Project Could Save $1.2 Billion

Proposed changes to the Ohio River Bridges Project would result in larger savings than previously expected.

In January, Mayor Greg Fischer, Governor Steve Beshear and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels proposed several cuts to the project, including rebuilding Spaghetti Junction in place and making the east end bridge four lanes wide instead of six.

It was expected the changes would save $500 million, but new calculations show that the project will cost $1.2 billion less if the proposals become reality. That would make the total cost of the project $2.9 billion.

There is currently no financing plan in place for the bridges project. Mayor’s spokesperson Chris Poynter says without guaranteed federal assistance, other options have to be pursued.

“…Public-private partnerships, tolls will likely be involved in the financing, but because we have a much cheaper project to build, that will result in cheaper costs and most likely cheaper tolls,” he says.

The bi-state bridges authority previously planned to use toll revenue to pay for about half of the project. That’s drawn the ire of various groups who have proposed building only the east end bridge or building the east end bridge first without tolls, then building the new Spaghetti Junction and a downtown span as financing is available.

Poynter says there won’t be any more design changes proposed, though more savings could be realized as the project is open to bids from contractors. The changes are still subject to a federal environmental review, though the authority hopes to begin construction in August of next year.

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Local News Politics

Sweeping Review Ordered For Bridges Project

The federal government has ordered a possibly years-long review of proposed changes to the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Last month, Mayor Greg Fischer, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels proposed cutting lanes from the east end bridge, dropping pedestrian paths from the downtown bridge and rebuilding Spaghetti Junction in place. The cuts, they say, would shave about $500 million off of the projects’ $4.1 billion cost.

As the Courier-Journal reports, the changes will require new environmental research. In other states, similar federal reevaluations have taken years to complete, but an official with the Ohio River Bridges Project told WFPL’s Rick Howlett the new studies should only take one year.

A conference on how best to complete the project will be held in Louisville on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Fischer Says Cost Of Bridges Project Should Be Cut

Changes could be made to the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer are touting a proposed set of changes to the project. The changes would shrink the ORBP, but two new bridges and a revamped Spaghetti Junction would still be in the plan.

The leaders have proposed keeping Spaghetti Junction in its current location, making the east end bridge four lanes instead of six and cutting bike lanes from the proposed downtown bridge in favor of the pedestrian-only Big Four Bridge. The proposed changes could cut half a billion dollars from the project.

Both states and the bi-state Bridges Authority will host a conference next month to find other ways to cut costs. Mayor Fischer says that may satisfy those citizens who have said the $4.1 billion project is too expensive.

“The project is costly as it is right now,” he says. “But some preliminary things have identified at least a half billion dollars or so and I would certainly hope as we pull the best minds in the world together on this thing that we can save more money than that as well.”

Fischer also says tolls should not be placed on the Sherman Minton or Clark Memorial Bridges. The group Say No To Bridge Tolls has called the proposed changes a victory. Members further hope no tolls will be placed on the Kennedy Bridge and that the project will be built in phases. The Bridges Authority previously opposed that suggestion.

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Local News

LASIBA Committee To Meet Thursday

Work will continue Thursday on the financing plan for the Ohio River Bridges Project.

A committee of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority will meet in Jeffersonville. The meeting agenda includes an update on the financing plan that was originally slated to be released later this year.

The project will likely cost around 4.1 billion dollars. The financing plan is expected to rely on a combination or federal funding and tolls.

The meeting begins at 10am at Kye’s.

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State of Affairs

Bridges Over the Ohio

It seems we’ve been talking about new bridges over the Ohio forever. We want two bridges, one bridge, no bridges. And the toll debate, yes tolls, no tolls, tolls on new bridges, tolls on old bridges. So, where does it all stand? Join us on Thursday when we get an update on the bridges project, hear some debate about the tolls, and find out what’s next.

Photo by augustnyne.

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