Implements cost-saving measures, new Record of Decision expected mid-June
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 20, 2012) – The Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project, designed to bring unprecedented improvements in cross-river mobility for the entire region, took a giant step forward today with federal approval of a new environmental impact statement.
Jose Sepulveda, Kentucky division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), signed the Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement (Supplemental FEIS) for the project, which involves construction of two bridges and reconstruction of the Kennedy interchange.
The Supplemental FEIS was required after Governors Steve Beshear of Kentucky and Mitch Daniels of Indiana, together with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, agreed to modifications that cut the cost of the project by $1.5 billion. Their leadership got the long-awaited project off the drawing board and on a path to construction, which is expected to begin before the end of the year.
“Approval of the new environmental document by FHWA is a welcome development,” said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock. “It means we are very close to securing a revised Record of Decision, which is one of the last steps toward federal approval for this critical project.”
The Supplemental FEIS is the culmination of detailed studies and extensive public involvement, “which has been the hallmark of the Ohio River Bridges project,” said Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Michael B. Cline.
With the approval by Administrator Sepulveda, the Supplemental FEIS is submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for publication in the Federal Register. The final sign-off will come with federal approval of a revised Record of Decision, which the two states expect to receive in mid-June. A Record of Decision allows Indiana and Kentucky to invest federal funds in the selected alternative for the project.
The Ohio River Bridges Project, as envisioned in the original FEIS and approved by FHWA with the 2003 Record of Decision, bore an estimated cost of $4.1 billion before Beshear, Daniels and Fischer stepped in. Their recommended changes reduced the cost to $2.6 billion. The single most significant change involves rebuilding the Kennedy Interchange in its current location, rather than reconstructing it further south. The Kennedy Interchange is where Interstates 64, 65 and 71 converge in downtown Louisville.
In another major advance for the project, Beshear and Daniels decided to divide the procurement into roughly equal parts. Kentucky will be in charge of constructing the Downtown Crossing and its approaches and reconstruction of the Kennedy Interchange. Indiana will be in charge of building an East End bridge between Utica, Ind., and Prospect, Ky., plus its approaches.