KY Transportation Cabinet moving forward with $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project - WDRB 41 Louisville News

KY Transportation Cabinet moving forward with $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project

The state's Transportation Cabinet says it is sticking with its plan for the $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project.  Despite this claim, the state spent nearly $50,000 earlier this year to hire a consultant to study the 8664 plan.

This revelation became public Monday, after the alternative development group released documents it obtained through an open records request.  In February, the state hired consulting firm Wilbur Smith and Associates to conduct a traffic study based on the 8664 plan.

In March, the study was stopped by Transportation Secretary Joe Prather after he thought lawmakers would come up with a way to pay for the bridges project.  But that didn't happen.

Lawmakers approved $231 million for the project over the next two years, there is still no long-term way to finance the project that calls for the construction of an east-end and downtown bridge along with a revamping of "Spaghetti Junction."

"We're just asking questions.  Why was it asked for?  Why did it get 92 percent complete and not delivered and who asked for it?" said JC Stites, 8664 co-founder.

In part, the 8664 plan calls for finishing an east end bridge, and replacing I-64 through downtown with a street-level boulevard.  The state says its traffic study borrowed from 8664, but included a downtown bridge and other features.

"The cabinet is committed to a two-bridge project," said Chuck Wolfe, Transportation Cabinet Spokesman.

Highway Department Spokesman Chuck Wolfe says the engineers were interested to see what the data would show.  But the study was never completed. E-mails show the work began in February and ended in March.  In one message, the consultant replies to an engineer: "We are stopping immediately."

Wolfe says Secretary Joe Prather cancelled the study after he believed lawmakers would approve a way to finance the $4 billion project.

"I think for these people that have dug their heels into the sand and said it's two bridges that's it -- then to those people: where you going to get the $4 billion?" said Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, (D) - Louisville.

With the state facing a $900 million shortfall over the next two years, some lawmakers like Senator Tim Shaughnessy have called on the state to downsize and examine alternatives to the bridges project.  Wolfe says Secretary Prather plans to ask the consulting firm to finish its traffic study.

The state is also weighing the option of building the east end bridge without the $250 million tunnel option.  That option aims to cut costs and could be an indication the state is re-thinking its plan.

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