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Preliminary East End Bridge Work Set for August

Indiana officials are advertising for bids for preparatory work on the state‘s portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield says construction will begin this summer on a road extension between Utica, Indiana and the River Ridge Commerce Center.

It’s the first step toward construction of a new east end bridge.

“We anticipate with bids opening July 11 that we’ll be breaking ground about August in terms of beginning work there. The road extension would open about June, 2013, and obviously we still have the larger procurement for the east end bridge that will be ongoing at that time,” Wingfield said today.

Wingfield says officials hope to have the east end bridge finished by 2018, if not sooner.

Kentucky officials are working with potential contractors on the larger portion of the bridges project, construction of a span in downtown Louisville and the reconfiguration of Spaghetti Junction.

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Local News Politics

Informational Meetings This Week for Bridges Project

Meetings will be held this week in Louisville for companies that want to take part in the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Kentucky and Indiana officials announced in December that the two states would split responsibilities for the project, with Kentucky building a downtown Louisville bridge and reworking Spaghetti Junction. Indiana will handle construction of a bridge and approaches east of Louisville.

The Kentucky Department of Transportation will conduct its meeting Thursday at the Kentucky
International Convention Center. The Indiana Department of Transportation will hold a session on the eastern span this Friday at the same site.

“We’ll be presenting information about the procurement process and the project for the East End Bridge and its approaches. And we’ll also accept questions and try to educate the group that’s there,” said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield.

The Kentucky Transporation Cabinet meeting is Thursday from 10:00am-4:00pm at the KICC; the Indiana meeting is Friday from 9:00am-noon.

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Local News Politics

Bridges Authority Optimistic About Start Date

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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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Officials Following Up On Bridges Forum Suggestions

More meetings will be held next month involving the bi-state bridges authority and private companies interested in taking part in the Ohio River Bridges Project.

A two-day industry forum last month drew about 800 participants to Louisville.

Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority Executive Director Steve Schultz says officials were unable to hold one-on-one meetings with all the companies that took part in the February event, so another two days of discussions will be held in April.

Schultz says in a summary of the February forum that leaders of construction and other companies have indicated that the 12-year schedule to build two new bridges and re-work Spaghetti Junction could be dramatically shortened, possibly by as much as half.

The governors of Kentucky and Indiana and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer asked the authority to hold the forum to find ways to make the project more efficient.

It currently has a $4.1 billion price tag, but those leaders are proposing scaling down the project to save some $500 million.

The authority’s next meeting is April 7.

Here is LASIBA Executive Director Steve Schultz’s summary of the Feburary industry forum: 

March 3, 2011 

Mr. Charles Buddeke, Chairman 

Mr. Kerry Stemler, Co-Chair 

Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority 

305 N. Hurstborne Lane Suite 175 

Louisville, Kentucky 40223 

Dear Charles and Kerry: 

I want to share with you and the members of the Authority my observations and those of the Bi-State Management Team (Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Indiana Department of Transportation) regarding the Industry Forum held February 16 and 17.   For starters, those close to the project and independent observers alike agreed that we met our dual objective of (a) communicating the status and vision of the project while (b) listening to and learning from those companies and individuals who have successfully delivered projects of this level of significance and/or who are interested in learning about the opportunities to participate in ours.   We were especially delighted to hear from several of the more seasoned industry participants that, for events of this type, the Forum was as good as, if not better than, others they had attended.  I’m sure we can improve even more next time around. 

While we learned a number of things that will aid the Authority and the state sponsors in advancing the project, I’d like to highlight five key points for your consideration: 

First, the presence and consistent message from Governor Beshear, Governor Daniels and Mayor Fischer underscoring the importance of the project and the need to move quickly and creatively sent a clear signal about the extraordinary partnership that is the project’s hallmark.  Unified and committed leadership is central to private sector interest in a project of this size. 

Second, the eight one-on-one meetings with several large developer/concessionaire/construction firms on the second day confirmed not only that there is strong market interest in the project, but also the opportunities for considering innovative approaches to drive cost reduction and schedule acceleration, as we expected.  In fact, we consistently heard that the current 12-year project construction schedule might be capable of being dramatically compressed – possibly by as much as half.  

Third, their feedback confirmed the necessity of the two states and the Authority considering some form of a public-private partnership model to deliver this project.  This would accelerate its completion and achieve cost savings and substantial schedule acceleration will greatly aid developers in offering committed bids on the project.  Most firms felt a single project delivery contract for the entire project (the bridges and the Kennedy Interchange) would allow the flexibility to deliver the most cost-effective solution.  In addition, the feedback consistently pointed to the need for a single project owner, fully supported and empowered by both states, as the optimal public sponsor for delivery of the project. 

Fourth, local firms and the local workforce will play a major role in delivering the project.  The strong interest displayed during the Day Two networking session helped us better understand what steps we need to take to allow the project to take full advantage of the talent we have in Kentuckiana and the region.  Of particular note was the message from the larger firms who made clear during the one-on-on sessions the importance they place on utilizing local workers and resources to complete a project of this size and complexity.  We heard that numerous local and DBE firms have already begun to form relationships with some of the larger firms, some of whom participated in the networking session on Day Two.  The strong commitment of both KYTC and INDOT to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) will prove complementary to this important element of the project. 

Fifth, let’s do the numbers.  We had more than 950 registrants; we estimate that somewhere between 750 and 800 actually attended at least part of the forum.  

  • About 70% of those registered were from our two states (40% from KY; 30% from IN).  

    o        The remaining approximately 30% were from 28 other states and 3 Canadian provinces.  

    o        Nearly 30% of the participants identified themselves as DBEs.  Dozens of industry fields and professions were represented.

     

    More than 100 of the participants took part in the structured networking session held on Day Two.  

    Through this exercise, we learned a great deal about the potential roles and expectations of small to medium-sized firms.  The participants were able to exchange contact details with a view toward doing some team-building of their own. (We also noted that there was significant informal networking outside of the formal networking session). These participants also, provided us with some very helpful feedback for future outreach efforts.  Recurring themes that surfaced during the discussion include:

     

    o        The need for state sponsors and the Authority to outline the process that will be used in selecting contracting services. 

    o        A better understanding of the role local and smaller firms will play and the opportunities for partnering with larger firms. 

    o        A clear process for submitting cost savings ideas. 

    o        The need to better understand how the project will be managed. 

    Finally, we were over-subscribed with requests for the one-on-one company meetings, so we are planning another two days in early April with other firms who met the criteria (e.g. experience in the lead role on projects greater than $500M). 

    On behalf of everyone involved in the planning and execution of the Forum, I thank you and our other colleagues on the Authority for your contributions to this successful event and for the continued service to this project that is so important to our two states. 

                                                                                                    Regards, 

                                                                                                    Steven R. Schultz 

    CC:          Governor Steve Beshear 

                    Governor Mitch Daniels 

                    Mayor Greg Fischer 

                    LSIBA Members 

                    Commissioner Mike Cline 

                    Secretary Mike Hancock 

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Local News

Bridges Authority Remains Dedicated To Two Bridges

The bi-state authority overseeing the Ohio River Bridges Project has reinforced its dedication to the project as it’s planned.

The authority clarified its position in a meeting Thursday by passing what it calls its strategic objectives. They outline that the Ohio River Bridges Project is two bridges and a reworked Spaghetti Junction. The body says it will not break the project into three separate pieces or consider eliminating parts of it.

Authority member Joe Reagan says it’s possible the authority has not made that clear.

“Our job is to make sure that we understand the facts, that we do the analysis. We’ve been doing that. What’s been missing is a clear message to you and to others is that maybe we haven’t done our job telling you we know where we’re going and what we’re going to do, and now we’ve done that,” he says.

The authority’s actions come amid what some say is growing opposition to either the entire project or the tolls that may be required to finance it. Reagan says some of the opposition may stem from a misunderstanding of what the authority is doing and why. A financing plan for the 4.1 billion dollar project must be complete by the end of the year, and Reagan says the authority has been working on it all year.

During the meeting, the body briefly discussed proposals to split the project into three separate pieces, but concluded that it isn’t feasible. As in previous meetings, several members of the public spoke for and against the project, and the possibility of using tolls to pay for it.

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Bridges Authority Reviews Possible Tolls On Spaghetti Junction

The co-chair of the Ohio River Bridges Authority says every major element of the bridges project could be tolled, including Spaghetti Junction.

The project has three parts–a reconfigured Spaghetti Junction, a new downtown bridge and a new bridge in eastern Jefferson County. The authority is trying to figure out how to generate the 4.1 billion dollars needed to pay for all three.  Members previously discussed tolling new and existing bridges, but in a meeting Thursday, they reviewed proposals for tolling east-west interstate traffic through downtown Louisville.

Authority co-chair Kerry Stemler says tolls would only be one part of the eventual financing plan, but a toll on Spaghetti Junction is just as possible as any other.

“I won’t render an opinion on how likely it is. I will tell you it definitely will be looked at, and seriously looked at, at all options. There is nothing that’s not on the table to look at, so it will be seriously considered.”

Several people spoke in opposition to tolls during the public comment portion of the meeting. Some cited a recent poll that showed the majority of Louisvillians opposed to two new bridges and Spaghetti Junction. Shawn Reilly of the Say No To Bridge Tolls group told the authority the three parts of the project should be built separately and at different times to keep costs down and avoid tolls.

“By taking a common-sense look at the Ohio River Bridges Project, one can clearly see that there are at least three operationally-independent phases of work: the east-end bridge, the downtown bridge and the reconfiguration of spaghetti junction,” he said.

Stemler says the whole project will be built.

The authority also looked at the effectiveness of tolls between fifty cents and three dollars. The body hopes to have a financing plan for tolls put together by December.

To see the Wilbur-Smith study of possible tolling scenarios and their effects on traffic, click here. (PDF)

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Local News Next Louisville

Bridges Financial Report Released

A report released today says the proposed $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project could be funded with a combination of tolls, taxes, fees and state and federal aid.

The financial report from the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority and the two states’ governments predicts that tolls could fund more than half of the cost of the project, assuming that motorists would pay $3 to cross two new bridges and the existing Kennedy Bridge.

The report says the three dollar figure is only being used for the sake of example, and actual rates could vary.

The proposed project includes bridges in downtown Louisville and Eastern Jefferson County and a reconfiguration of the Spaghetti Junction interchange.

The full, 12-page report can be seen here.

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Spaghetti Junction Ranked 11th-Worst Bottleneck in the U.S.

by Stephanie Crosby

The interchange of interstates 64, 65 and 71 in downtown Louisville is one of the worst in the country – that’s according to a new study out today from the American Transportation Research Institute and the Federal Highway Administration. It ranks Spaghetti Junction as the 11th-worst bottleneck in the nation.

The report measured the average speeds at which a vehicle can navigate the interchange during peak and non-peak hours.

Chuck Moore is the president of Eagle Steel, which operates in Indiana and Kentucky. He says the bottleneck creates a logistics problem for his company and others.

“If you didn’t have you company in Louisville or the greater Louisville area, you probably wouldn’t bring it to town with the bottleneck that we have,” says Moore. “We depend on the highways to get product from Indiana to Kentucky. We sometimes just stand still on the bridge that is there, and the roads around because of that bottleneck.”

Moore is also the co-chair of the Greater Louisville Manufacturing and Logistics Network – a group that supports the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Other interchanges that ranked higher than Louisville on the list include three in Chicago, and others in New Jersey, Lox Angeles, St. Louis and Atlanta.