A massive bridge project between New Albany, Ind., and Louisville, Ky., is designed to make transit between the two towns easier. The entire project has six sections, divided among the two states. Each section has its own design team and construction team.
“Each state brings a different approach and different experiences to the table,” Will Wingfield, media relations at the Indiana Department of Transportation, said.
Because of this, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Kentucky Governor Steve Bershear decided to separate the project into two procurements.
“When you’re building this large of a project, you’re dealing with a lot of different interests that often have competing aims,” Wingfield stated. “We had to balance and respect the interests of a lot of different people. That’s the challenge when you have a river that not only poses a physical barrier, but a state barrier as well.”
Both states were responsible for coming up with their own payment plan. Although the project is a bi-state project, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and must be treated as such, Kentucky was named as project lead.
In Kentucky, it will be financed through a combination of traditional highway funding and grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds. The design-build construction will be performed by the Walsh Design Build Team. In Indiana, the project has been designed as a public-private partnership. After initial construction, WVB East End Partners will remain responsible for maintenance of the bridge for up to 35 years. After that time, it will be returned to the state in good condition. Indiana’s financing will be provided using the P3 method, under which the state will repay a private company for its investments annually and based on the milestone.
The Ohio River Bridges project has been in the plans for a long time. Plans for the East End Bridge, which will carry traffic from Interstate 265, have been on the drawing board since the 1970s — not long after the construction of the Sherman Minton Bridge, which carries Interstate 64 and US 150 from Indiana to Kentucky over the Ohio River; and the John F. Kennedy Bridge, which carries seven lanes of traffic on Interstate 65.
Where there are only three bridges between Louisville and southern Indiana now, after construction there will be five. The East End Bridge, which Indiana is in charge of, will be added, along with the Downtown Crossing, for which Kentucky is responsible.
Clark Memorial Bridge, which carries US 31, opened 80 years ago and is the third bridge leading to Louisville.
The project, as originally imagined, would have cost $4.1 billion.
“It was just unaffordable, so the two governments and heads of respective transportation industries in recent years came together to figure out how we would get this project down to an affordable level. One of the big cost savings was, rather than rebuilding the Kennedy Interchange in a different location, it would be rebuilt in the same place. So the estimated cost was reduced from $4.1 billion to $2.6 billion,” Wolfe said.
Final construction was divided equally in consideration of strengths and weaknesses.
In Indiana, a tunnel had to be built under the historic Drumanard Estate, leading to the East End Kentucky Approach and serving as an extension of I-265 and the East End Bridge, additionally connecting with the Lee Hamilton Highway in Indiana. Five homes in the Jeffersonville historic district, the oldest homes west of the Appalachian Mountains, are required to be preserved. The old train depot in Jeffersonville also had to be repurposed and restored because of federal regulations involved.
In Kentucky, sacrifices had to be made as well. In the original design, the Kennedy Approach would have been moved southward, adding $1.5 billion. Now, Kentucky will distribute that money to other parts of the project.
“The current approach on the Kentucky side, you have what’s called the Kennedy Interchange. It was very heavily travelled, very high maintenance and it is frequently the scene of many crashes. The project calls for the Kennedy Interchange to be smoothed out, and that’s a very big part of the whole project,” Wolfe explained.
In order to come up with all the design changes and stay in line with federal mandates, Kentucky, Indiana and the mayor of Louisville created the Louisville-Southern Indiana Bridges Authority in 2009.
“We’ve had hundreds of meetings on this project that have been open to the public. As we get closer to construction, the turnout has increased. The people who get involved early can really make the most difference,” Wingfield said.
Official construction began July 1. While both states will divide toll revenue equally, they are still in the process of developing a tolling agreement, which won’t be needed until after the construction is completed around December 2016.