Cost-cutting plan for Ohio River Bridges

By Maira Ansari - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY - The new Mayor of Louisville and the Governors of Kentucky and Indiana have a few ideas on how to reduce the cost of the Ohio River Bridges Project.

A big announcement by the leaders to scale back the bridges project and save $500 million dollars, which means drivers may not have to pay as many tolls.

The leaders signaled their desire to keep the Sherman Minton Bridge (I-64) and Clark Memorial Bridge (US 31) toll free. The Kennedy Bridge and two new bridges would still be tolled. The goal is to also keep the entire two-bridge construction plan on track.

The major cost savings for the project, which currently has an estimated price tag of $4 billion, could come from changes in these key areas:

-Rebuilding Spaghetti Junction in the existing location rather than move it south

-Reducing the East End bridge, roadway and tunnel from six lanes to four lanes, with the option to add two lanes later if traffic demand warrants

-Completing the Big Four Bridge pedestrian walkway and bike path as an alternative to including pedestrian and bike paths on the new downtown bridge

In addition, the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority will explore other cost-saving solutions in design, construction and financing by soliciting private-sector ideas at an industry innovation forum next month.

Mayor Greg Fischer says every month of delay costs $10 million. WAVE 3 caught up with Mayor Fischer as he was touring City Hall.

"We are looking every possible way reduce the cost and still realize the goals of cross river mobility," said Mayor Fischer.

The plans will require further study and consultation with federal officials. But the leaders believe the changes will reduce the overall environmental impact of the project, meet the established Purpose and Need and avoid any additional delay.

Shawn Reilly with the group Say No to Tolls says Tuesday's announcement is a big step in the right direction, but they are still asking the governor to take tolls on the Kennedy off the table as well.

"Our whole goal argument this whole time has been keeping the existing bridges toll free," said Reilly. "The bridges we have already paid for putting tolls on the bridges we've already paid for would be double taxation."

Beshear, Daniels and Fischer also said they support the Authority's targets for minimizing tolls.

The Bridges Authority released a statement: "The plans announced today by Governor Beshear, Governor Daniels and Mayor Fischer will allow us to build on the foundation we laid in 2010 and move decisively to implement our strategy and work toward a targeted construction date of August 2012." The Bridges Authority meets Thursday, where members will discuss the plans more in-depth.

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