News and Tribune

Clark County

March 29, 2012

Yarmuth: Federal approval coming soon for bridges project

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Another hurdle that must be cleared before actual construction can start on the Ohio River Bridges Project is “imminent.”

According to a press release issued by U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., on Wednesday, he expects the Federal Highway Administration to approve the Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Ohio River Bridges Project soon.

“It is very encouraging that federal approval for the Bridges Project is imminent,” Yarmuth said in the release. “Throughout this process, I have asked for and received assurances from President Obama and U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood that the approval process will be expedited. With this, we now know the project is expected to be approved bringing us another step closer to construction getting under way this year.”

Project planners originally slated a groundbreaking for August, but are now hoping to just break ground before the end of the year.

Federal approval is required before construction can begin on the plan to build an east-end bridge, downtown bridge and reconstruct Spaghetti Junction. Kentucky and Indiana have agreed to split the financing of the $2.6 billion project, with Indiana taking on the east-end, and Kentucky securing the financing and construction on the downtown portion of the plan.

The Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority presented a financial plan on how each state plans to pay for its $1.3 billion portion of the project in early-March, which was also required to be submitted before the Federal Highway Administration approved the plan.

A letter from Yarmuth and U.S. Rep Todd Young, R-Ind., to the Federal Highway Administration urged for a quick turnaround on the review of the project’s environmental impact statement.

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez sent a letter to the congressmen Tuesday that read, “In working with our partners, we agreed to take extraordinary steps to expedite this project ... [and] we expect to approve it soon,” referring to the Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement.

He also explained following the approval, the final document will be available for review by the public for 30 days.

Once the Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement is approved by the Federal Highway Administration, it can issue its record-of-decision on the project, after which construction could begin.

Project planners are still waiting on word from the Federal Highway Administration, despite the inclusion in the approved financial plan, on an official tolling policy for the bridges project. While tolling is not scheduled to begin until the first bridge is open, in 2017, whether or not the Federal Highway Administration will allow tolls to be placed on the existing Kennedy Bridge is unknown.

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