LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Efforts to build two new bridges linking the Louisville area and southern Indiana have cleared another hurdle by winning federal approval to proceed with construction of the $2.6 billion project.
Kentucky and Indiana officials said Wednesday that the Federal Highway Administration approved the plan to build the two spans and to modernize an interchange in downtown Louisville.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said after decades of debate, the project is about to become a reality. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said the approval marked another important step forward.
Officials said an August groundbreaking is expected for the first element of the massive project.
Indiana will oversee construction of an east end bridge between Utica, Indiana and Prospect, Kentucky.
Kentucky will oversee construction of a new downtown bridge.
For many people who cross the river on a regular basis, the project is long overdue.
"I've been coming downtown for 27 years and it seems like we've been talking about as long as I've been coming down here," said Oldham County resident Terry Collins.
The revised plan also involves rebuilding Spaghetti Junction in its current location rather than moving it.
Mayor Greg Fischer said the project will mean better cross river mobility and jobs.
"4,100 jobs for a year for architects, engineers, steel workers, excavation companies, and labors," said Mayor Greg Fischer.
Environmental group, River Fields, has been locked in opposition against a proposed east end bridge.
"A record of decision and a ceremonial groundbreaking in August does not mean a project is underway," said attorney for River Fields Bob Griffith. "This project still faces a number of major hurdles in terms of logistics and financing."
One east end resident said he has been waiting for the bridges project to begin.
"There are too many forces on both sides of the river frankly, that seems like they really want to get it done," said Louisville resident Jim Hunter. "I think there is the political will and the economic will to get it done and I think it's going to happen."
As far as tolls, the plan is that they will be collected on the new east end bridge, the new downtown I-65 bridge and the revamped I-65 Kennedy Bridge.
State officials estimate the six year project to be one of the largest in the nation.
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