LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Hundreds of people, including two governors, came to Louisville to talk about building two new bridges across the Ohio River and fixing a major interchange. Their hope is to find even more ways to knock down the $4.1 billion price tag attached to the Ohio River Bridges project.
About 70 percent of the people registered for the Ohio River Bridges Industry Forum are from Indiana and Kentucky. The rest represent 28 states and three Canadian provinces.
"We are a toll system integrator," said Jim Cranston of TRMI Systems Integration based in Accord, NY. "We provide open road tolling systems."
Participants include architectural firms, concrete pavers, environmental firms, and insurance companies. About 800 people registered for the forum, which Mayor Greg Fischer calls unleashing the "power of the private sector."
"I am very very hopeful that you all will be able to come up with not only continuous improvement ideas, but some breakthrough ideas on this project as well," said Fischer to the audience.
On Feb. 15, Fischer held a press conference to announce $22 million in funding from Kentucky, Indiana, and Jeffersonville to get the Big Four pedestrian bridge built. He estimates opening the bridge will save millions on the Ohio River Bridges project, which will now be able to eliminate its pedestrian element.
This comes a month after Fischer and governors announced changes like the pedestrian element that would save $500 million. Changes, however, mean new additions to an environmental impact study, which some worry could cost time.
"We don't anticipate that study taking any longer than it would have taken to start with, so we don't look at that as any kind of delay at this point," said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels called delay the "devil" because bids are coming in as much as a third under cost estimates.
"We are experiencing chronic underruns," said Daniels. "That is to say, bids that consistently are well below what history said and the engineering estimates are expected."
Daniels said the U.S. is lagging behind in innovation.
"I think this will be one of the vanguard projects in a necessary and sweeping change in how we get things built in America with a mix of public and private activity," said Daniels.
Many people have talked about Daniels running for President. WAVE 3 asked if he was making the push for the bridges now because of the upcoming campaign season. Daniels said no and told us he has been talking about the bridges since he ran for governor the first time.