Monday, April 28, 2003

Ohio River bridges priority
in Louisville



The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - As Kentucky and Indiana use federal highway money for the next 17 years to pay for the $1.9 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, other Louisville transportation projects could be delayed.

John Carr, the deputy state highway engineer overseeing the bridges project for Kentucky, said projects such as the widening of Interstate 71 and the Watterson Expressway would likely be postponed until the bridges are completed in 2020.

"We can build it, and we can afford to build it," Carr said. "But the community and the state are going to have to make it a priority."

The bridges likely will not affect projects in Indiana, said Mike Hazeltine of the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The federal government collects a gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and returns the money to states for roads, bridges and highways.

Kentucky also collects 16.4 cents per gallon and Indiana takes in 18 cents.

Construction on the bridges could eat up an increasingly large portion of that money over seven years, according to a preliminary financing report.

Of the $1.8 billion in federal and state gas taxes Kentucky expects in 2004, $44.4 million - about 2.4 percent - would be spent on the bridges project. By 2010, Kentucky's construction cost would peak at $244.7 million, consuming nearly 11 percent of the state's gas tax revenue.

The Federal Highway Administration has endorsed building one bridge downtown and one in eastern Jefferson County, along with reworking Spaghetti Junction, where Interstates 64, 65 and 71 meet.

On Aug. 29, the administration will issue its formal "Record of Decision," allowing design and land acquisition to proceed.




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