Home » Ohio River Bridges Project gains federal approval on financing, management and tolling

Ohio River Bridges Project gains federal approval on financing, management and tolling

Last major requirements from FHWA, U.S. DOT needed to move project to construction

This rendering depicts one of two new Ohio River bridges – shown here across the center of the photo alongside the existing Kennedy Bridge in downtown Louisville – that Kentucky and Indiana officials expect to get construction started on in 2012. The long-sought Ohio River Bridges Project also will include a second structure known as the East End Bridge several miles north of downtown Louisville linking I-265 (Gene Snyder Expressway) with connecting highways in Utita, Ind.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Aug. 3, 2012) – Federal transportation officials have approved the financing, management and tolling plans for the Ohio River Bridges Project, the last major federal requirements needed to begin construction on one of the nation’s largest transportation improvements.

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The approval from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) paves the way for the project’s official start on Aug. 30. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and a host of federal, state and local officials will break ground on the first construction element of the long-awaited project — a 3,000-foot road extension in Indiana that will ultimately connect the River Ridge Commerce Center to State Road 265 and the future East End Bridge.

With the federal sign-off, each state plans to move forward this week with its final Request for Proposals, which will ask the competing bridge- and road-building teams to provide their plans and bids for constructing the project. The states will select those teams before year’s end.

The Bridges Project will include construction of new bridges across the Ohio River between downtown Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind., and between Prospect, Ky., and Utica, Ind. In addition, the project will dramatically improve the Kennedy Interchange, where Interstates 64, 65 and 71 meet in downtown Louisville, and the existing Kennedy Bridge, which carries I-65 traffic.

The Bridges Project will improve cross-river mobility and increase safety in one of the nation’s most congested and important highway corridors. In the process, it will create thousands of jobs, both in short-term construction and in long-term economic development.

Last month, the FHWA approved the cost-savings version of the Bridges Project originally put forward by Beshear, Daniels and Fischer. The approach reduces costs 40 percent by streamlining the basic design, cutting construction time in half and encouraging private-sector innovation in the delivery process.

Documents outline responsibilities, plans

The documents that transportation officials approved include:

— A Project Management Plan, which FHWA requires for “major projects” such as the Bridges Project. This plan defines the structure and processes that will ensure control of the scope, budget, schedule and quality of the project. It also outlines approaches to contract management, reporting, quality assurance, safety, traffic management, communications and other essential project elements.

— An Initial Financial Plan—also required under FHWA “major projects” guidance—which outlines expected project costs, funding sources and financing mechanisms and describes the financial responsibilities of the two states in delivering the project.

— A Tolling Agreement among the FHWA and the states’ transportation agencies and financing agencies, which authorizes tolling and outlines certain requirements that Kentucky and Indiana will need to meet in using tolls to help pay for the new and improved river crossings.

The three documents can be viewed on the Bridges Project website, www.kyinbridges.com.

Project managed by joint by-state board

The project will be headed by the existing Bi-State Management Team led by representatives from KYTC and INDOT. A joint bi-state board, which will resolve any issues or disputes, includes the leaders of four governing agencies – the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Indiana Department of Transportation and the two states’ financing agencies for the project – the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority and the Indiana Finance Authority.

The Louisville-Southern Indiana Bridges Authority, the bi-state citizens’ board which accomplished the mission of helping the states choose optimal financing solutions to move the project to construction, will continue and provide help to the two states as needed.

The Initial Financial Plan details the financial responsibilities of the two states, which have divided the estimated $2.6 million project into two segments. Kentucky is responsible for financing the Downtown Crossing and Indiana is responsible for the East End Crossing.

Kentucky and Indiana are working to finalize a development agreement that will describe the states’ approach to adopting a tolling policy, which will guide the setting of toll rates. The development agreement will also contain provisions designed to ensure that the toll revenues collected will, together with other committed sources of funding, be sufficient to pay for the construction, rehabilitation, financing, maintenance and operation of the tolled facilities. Tolls will be collected using electronic non-stop technology by a single toll collection system operator selected by the two states and will be shared equally between the Kentucky and Indiana.

Tolls on all project facilities will begin as soon as the first new crossing is completed. Motorists will pay tolls only on the new East End Crossing and the Downtown Crossing, which includes a new I-65 bridge for northbound traffic only and a revamped Kennedy Bridge for southbound traffic only. The East End Crossing is expected to open in 2017 and the Downtown Crossing in 2018.