Hoosiers are getting the raw end of the deal again.
That, at least, is the perception from local officials who have had a chance to view the aesthetics related to the Ohio River Bridges Project.
Jeffersonville Redevelopment Director Rob Waiz gave a presentation to the Redevelopment Commission Wednesday night that showed a disparity in the aesthetic plans for the Indiana side of both the downtown and east-end corridors of the bridges project when compared to Kentucky’s side of the project.
“It’s too huge for our area to ignore this on the east-end, or our downtown,” Waiz said of the look of the project. “We just have one shot to do this, and to do it right.”
As designs have been presented and work has begun on the project to construct a new downtown Interstate 65 bridge, new approaches on each side of the Ohio River and rebuild Spaghetti Junction, as well as building a new bridge and approaches on the east-end corridor, time is at a premium.
“We definitely see a lopsided approach,” said Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore. “I expect the Indiana side to be treated in the same fashion [as Kentucky]. Hopefully, the state recognizes this is a project that will be welcoming people into the state.”
According to figures Waiz cited in an email to Paul Boone, project liaison with the Indiana Department of Transportation — and figures he reiterated Wednesday — about $10 million was built into the project’s budget for Kentucky approaches and overpass aesthetics on the east end. In Indiana, on the east end, nothing was in the budget for aesthetics.
Waiz said he had a meeting with Boone and Ron Heustis, INDOT project manager for the Ohio River Bridges Project, to discuss the Indiana approaches on each part of the project.
“At the meeting, honestly, they really didn’t want to budge in trying to help us out aesthetically,” Waiz said to the redevelopment commission. “I think what they’ve done on the Louisville side is fantastic. I wouldn’t want to see anything at all changed over there. But some of the changes that need to be made [on Indiana’s side] downtown, we need to do it and we need to do it now. What’s going to be put in place is what we’re going to be looking at ... for the next 75 years.”
Waiz took the commission members through the proposed plans for the downtown portion of the project being managed by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and being constructed by Walsh Design Build Team. The estimated construction cost is $860 million.
Among the features on the Kentucky side that he walked the commission through were facade options, plazas for pedestrians and bicyclists near overpasses, aesthetic access controls, monuments and extensive landscaping in the medians of the interstate approaches.
For Indiana, options were also offered on the gateways to the city, with different facade choices. However, Waiz expressed an interest in seeing the three downtown exits and entrances match.
He said he wants to make sure that exits to Jeffersonville on 10th Street, 6th Street and Court Avenue all look uniform, with a red brick facade and signage on overpasses that bear the city’s name. And instead of having Jeffersonville painted on the overpasses, Waiz said they would like to see raised aluminum writing on all three structures.
Waiz said the price he got from the Walsh group to change the interchanges and put in the brick style fencing, and improving the aesthetics of the overpass on Riverside Drive, would total about $1.5 million.
“That’s just a small change order in the whole scheme of things,” Waiz said.