Friday, April 18, 2003

2 Louisville bridges over Ohio to cost billions, take 13 years

By Joshua Hammann
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Construction on two proposed bridges over the Ohio River could start in about four years and be completed by 2020, highway officials said Wednesday.

Transportation officials from Kentucky and Indiana have completed an environmental impact study on two new bridges connecting Louisville and southern Indiana that could cost as much as $2.5 billion.

The study is being given to various federal agencies, and a final construction decision from the Federal Highway Administration could come in August or September, said John Carr, Deputy State Highway Engineer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Officials are confident the FHA will approve the plan.

"Bottom line, we needed both bridges," Carr said of a new downtown Louisville bridge and a second bridge in eastern Jefferson County. "We think it's time to get on with it."

The highway administration also said Wednesday that it will rebuild a tangled mass of interstate highways, known as Spaghetti Junction, near the city's downtown. That's where Interstates 64, 65 and 71 meet.

"The highway administration is saying, 'This is what we are going to build, and this is what we expect the cost to be,'" said Charles Ray-mer, manager of the Ohio River Bridges Project.

The project was initially thought to cost about $1.4 billion, but with inflation and additional costs for land acquisition, engineering and bridge design, the price tag was raised, Raymer said.

The federal government will cover 80 percent of the project's costs, with the remaining 20 percent paid by Kentucky and Indiana.

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