Bridges project becomes cheaper, but still requires tolls - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Bridges project becomes cheaper, but still requires tolls

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- The cost of the Ohio River Bridges Project has been cut by $1.5 billion, but that doesn't mean drivers will escape paying tolls once the new bridges are built.  Construction is set to begin before the end of the year.

Kentucky and Indiana's governors announced an agreement Monday morning that reduced the cost of the bridges' construction to $2.6 billion.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says, "We reduced the size of the changes for the Spaghetti Junction interchange here on the Kentucky side and we reduced the East End bridge from six lanes to four lanes, not from the standpoint of width because it will be built where it can handle six lanes."

Southern Indiana has tremendous economic prospects and these new bridges are the key to making them real," Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said in a news release.  

The plan uses traditional transportation funds to build the bridges, with Kentucky contributing $536 million and Indiana $432 million. 

Tolls would be around $1 per crossing for frequent commuters in cars, SUVs, and other passenger vehicles that would use transponder devices.  Tolls for such vehicles that were not frequent commuters would be $2.  Panel trucks like delivery trucks would pay about $5, and tractor-trailers about $10.

Those tolls won't go into effect until the first new bridge is completed, which is expected in 2017 or 2018.  The tolls will be in effect on the new East End bridge, the new I-65 bridge, and the reconfigured Kennedy Bridge.

Both states will continue to look for federal funding that could help pay for the projects and decrease the tolls.

Daniels says, "As we learned from the Sherman Minton project, incentives matter and each has an incentive to be imaginative, if possible raise the cost down even further, possibly keep tolls down even lower than we are estimating now."

Beshear says, "We are going to push rapidly for bids and we're going to be picking three finalists."

Kentucky will oversee construction of the downtown portion of the bridges project, including a new I-65 bridge, reconfigured Kennedy Bridge, and reconfiguring the downtown interchanges on both sides of the river.

Indiana will oversee construction of the East End bridge which will link the Lee Hamilton Highway in Indiana and the Gene Snyder Freeway in Kentucky, completing a loop around Louisville.

The plan must be approved by the Bridges Authority as well as the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority -- that approval is expected to come later today.  The Federal Highway Administration must also approve a more detailed plan.

"Through cooperation and determination, we will achieve what this region has talked about – but been unable to deliver – for four decades," Beshear said.

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