Possible $1.2 billion in savings, but tolls are still on table - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Possible $1.2 billion in savings, but tolls are still on table

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An artist's rendering of the proposed new bridge for downtown Louisville An artist's rendering of the proposed new bridge for downtown Louisville

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – There was a bit of good news for Kentuckiana taxpayers Thursday: the cost of the Ohio River Bridges Project could be reduced by at least $1.2 billion if changes recommended earlier this year are implemented. Louisville Mayor Greg says he is committed to beginning construction on the two new bridges in the next four years.

The changes to the project were suggested by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer after an in-depth analysis by the Bi-State Management Team concluded.

Even with the proposed savings Beshear says tolls are still "on the table."

"Tolling is still going to be apart of these studies to try to figure out how to close that (funding) gap," said Beshear.

Beshear and Fischer did say they expect even more savings.

"We are committed on both sides of the river to build these bridges as quickly as we can, at the lowest cost possible," Gov. Beshear said. "The project team's detailed analysis showing a much higher estimated savings is great news for our citizens. I'm excited about the project's continued momentum and the enormous beneficial impact it will have for our communities."

"The Bi-State Management Team's identification of significant additional cost savings is good news indeed," Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said. "Two new bridges connecting southern Indiana with Louisville are critical to the region's economic future. Building them as fast as we can using smart, cost-effective designs will produce the best value for taxpayers and motorists alike."

The largest savings would result from:

  • Rebuilding the downtown Kennedy Interchange in place rather than moving it to the south – $800 million less.

  • Eliminating flyover ramps and making other design changes on the Indiana interstate approach to the newly expanded I-65 bridges – $215 million less.

  • Reducing the number of lanes on the East End bridge, roadway and tunnel from six to four – $174 million less.

"We've been talking about building these bridges for far too long," Fischer said. "It's time for action. It's my goal to get these bridges under construction in the next four years. The bridges will not only improve traffic and provide better access across the river, it will mean jobs…5,000 jobs a year for up to 10 years….to put our citizens back to work."

The cost-saving changes would reduce the estimated cost of the project from $4.1 billion to $2.9 billion. The project's price tag could go lower still as a result of efforts by the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority, which is working to develop a financing plan to close the funding gap and reduce the 12-year project timetable through public-private partnerships.

The cost estimates are based on an annual 4 percent inflation rate with construction beginning in FY 2013 and ending in FY 2022.

Public invited to review, comment on alternatives

The two states plan to compare the cost-savings alternative to two other options – the original 2003 recommended alternative and a no-build alternative – in the SEIS process underway. Tolling scenarios for the new and improved I-65 bridges and the new East End bridge will be studied for the two construction alternatives to consider the potential impacts in traffic diversion and other environmental factors.

The Bridges Authority will also study tolling options as part of its on-going work to develop a financial plan for the project to close the gap between the traditional financial resources of the states and the project's ultimate price tag. The Bridges Authority also will examine whether an alternative delivery model, such as a public-private partnership, could significantly reduce the project's 12-year timetable and further decrease costs.

The three alternatives under consideration in the SEIS process will be the centerpiece of an upcoming series of seven public involvement meetings, which include two meetings for the general public:

  • Indiana Meeting – June 27, 4 to 8 p.m. Eastern time, Holiday Inn Lakeview Louisville – North, 505 Marriott Drive, Clarksville, Indiana.

  • Kentucky Meeting – June 28, 4 to 8 p.m. Eastern time, Holiday Inn Hurstbourne, 1325 Hurstbourne Parkway, Louisville, Kentucky.

Citizens are invited to attend the meetings to learn more about the options, ask questions and provide comments that will be considered in developing the draft SEIS, which will recommend a preferred alternative later this year. For more details, go to www.kyinbridges.com.

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