NEW ALBANY —
It likely will take six months and $20 million before the Sherman Minton Bridge is reopened, officials said Friday.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, along with federal and local officials, presented the plan and timeline that will allow the Sherman Minton Bridge, connecting Louisville to New Albany, to reopen. The bridge has been shut down since Sept. 9 when a critical crack was discovered in a load-bearing beam.
Since the bridges closure, engineers, state transportation officials, federal transportation officials and state and local representatives have been visiting the bridge and working on a solution to get the span reopened to traffic.
But the public will have to wait, possibly until the end of March to be able to use the bridge.
“We were facing a very big crisis in this whole area,” Beshear said. “We have a solution, we defined the problem and while we would love to stand here and say we can open this bridge next week — because we know what a disruption this has been to people’s lives and to the commerce in this area — at least we’re now starting to put our arms around some definitive timelines and some definitive cost that we think are fairly decent estimates at the moment.”
Officials said that everything will be done to speed up repairs and bids from contractors are expected to be opened in mid-October. The completion timeline also will be weather-dependent.
Daniels said Indiana will start welcoming bids Monday, and 17 contractors already have expressed an interest in competing for the project.
“We expect this to take, and this is only an estimate, six months,” he said. “It could be more, it could be less. We expect it to cost in the vicinity of $20 million. It could be more, it could be less,”
And to whomever the contract is awarded, there will be an incentive to beat the six-month timeline.
“The contract that is let will include an incentive clause for speed and the contractor will be able to earn up to $5 million, at $100,000 a day, for beating the timetable,” Daniels said.
He added the $5 million incentive has already been built into the $20 million estimate for the project.
Although Indiana has the lead in maintaining the bridge, the governors said the costs to repair the span will be shared equally.
For Kentucky, Beshear said the funding will come out of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s budget.
“We’ll find the money one way or another. Obviously, we have other uses for that money and the more money we have to pull off of other things ... [they] will slow down to some degree,” he said. “But this is a top priority, this is a crisis, this is an emergency and this moves to the top of the list in both in Indiana and Kentucky.”
For Indiana, Daniels said the state has the funds to cover the repairs, but was not sure exactly what fund the money will come out of to pay its portion of the costs.
“I don’t know what account they’ll write the check out of ... [but] because of the Major Moves transaction, Indiana has a tremendous amount of money we’ve been reinvesting, so when something like this comes up, we don’t have to hesitate,” he said. “I don’t want to minimize [the cost, but] in Indiana’s transportation situation, that’s pocket change.”
And Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez offered the states some additional help.
“We are bringing additional federal resources to the project,” he said. “Up to 25 percent of today’s estimate, the $20 million you are hearing about, we will find additional federal resources because a new fiscal year is beginning tomorrow.”
He explained that the Federal Highway administration had been given a six-month extension in its funding for federal transportation projects and the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The extension and new fiscal year allowed the Federal Highway Administration to set aside the funds to repair the Sherman Minton Bridge.
“Regardless of whether we got federal money, we were going to have to repair this bridge,” Beshear said. “There wasn’t any question about that.”
And to date, for the inspection, repairs already completed and engineering work, the states have spent between $6 million and $7 million.
“I believe we have the best solution that we can come to today, given everything we have in place,” Mendez said. “We’re going to open up this bridge as soon as we can and we’re going to do it safely.”