Sunday, September 7, 2003

Ohio River bridges plan OK'd by Feds

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - The project to build two new bridges connecting Louisville to southern Indiana has cleared a major hurdle.

The Federal Highway Administration approved the Ohio River Bridges Project, nearly 30 years after the first discussions began.

The project awaits the signature of Jose Sepulveda, Kentucky director of the highway administration. And most of the money for the project has yet to be secured.

The western bridge will connect downtown Louisville with Jeffersonville, Ind. The other bridge will connect the Gene Snyder Freeway on Louisville's outer perimeter with Indiana 265 near Utica.

"We are ready to move," said John Carr, the deputy state highway engineer overseeing the bridges project for Kentucky.

He said the bridges project needs $70 million in its first year. The states have about $30 million for it, but $20 million of that has been committed to an environmental study. Carr said Congress must approve the release of the $20 million. The rest of the money for the project would come from the transportation appropriations bill that Congress is debating.

U.S. Rep. Anne Northup, R-3rd District, said she plans to pursue the funding. She said she is confident it will come because the Bush administration has made the bridges project a priority.

The Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation, which advocates public transportation, is considering filing a lawsuit to block the project, coalition director Jackie Green said.

Carr said the environmental study was thorough and could withstand legal challenges.

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