By BRADEN LAMMERS
The city of Jeffersonville is going to get the look it wants for the Ohio River Bridges Project, but it’s going to cost them.
An agreement was reached in principle between the Indiana Department of Transportation and the city to share in the cost of aesthetic upgrades to the both the downtown and east-end portions of the bridges project. The agreement splits the cost of the upgrades to overpasses, facades and fencing, among other elements, 80-20 percent between INDOT and Jeffersonville, respectively.
Jeffersonville Redevelopment Director Rob Waiz raised concerns about the aesthetic plans on both the downtown and on the east-end portions of the project following an advisory committee meeting earlier this spring. Waiz subsequently presented the plans to the Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission and asked for assistance in getting some upgrades made to the aesthetics on the Indiana side of the river.
According to a press release, Indiana is willing to share the cost of upgrading the look of the areas surrounding the bridge project with Jeffersonville.
“INDOT and Jeffersonville would share the costs for enhancements that may include upgraded railings, fencing, lighting, pedestrian connections and other aesthetic measures,” according to the release. “They city would also assume some ongoing maintenance responsibilities consistent with other major projects throughout Indiana.”
But how much the changes will ultimately cost Indiana is unknown.
“We’re still working with different aesthetic features ... . They’re still working on cost estimates,” Waiz said.
At the time Waiz raised his concerns, he pointed out that 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.
Indiana is responsible for completing the east-end portion of the project through the contracting team WVB East End Partners at an estimated construction cost of $763 million.
Part of what was in the plan for Kentucky for aesthetics were sound barriers, cobblestone form liners, self-weathered steel for overpasses, trail heads at points along the east-end approach, wooden guard rails and cobblestone facing on the approaches to the Drumanard Tunnel.
On the Indiana approach, Waiz offered that he would like to see the chain-link fencing planned along the route replaced.
He said that he would like to see a four-board fencing be installed between a bicycle and pedestrian path and the highway. He added there are also discussions ongoing to possibly add an additional trailhead for bicycle paths on the east end to improve access to nearby neighborhoods.
“These are some additions we’d like to pursue,” he said.
In addition, the city is seeking improvements to the three exits on the downtown portion of the project. That portion is being managed by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and being constructed by Walsh Design Build Team. The estimated construction cost is $860 million.
Waiz requested a more uniform look for Court Avenue, Sixth Street and the 10th Street corridors. Originally only Court Avenue was to be constructed as a gateway. Walsh Construction Project Manager Max Rowland said at the bridges project open house meeting in Louisville, transforming the Sixth and 10th Street exits in the downtown corridor into gateways was uncertain.
But tentative plans for exits are to make improvements to their looks. Among the changes possible are that the facades of the overpasses will be upgraded from a flat concrete facing, aluminum lettering that spells out Jeffersonville — opposed to previous plans of painting lettering on the facade — is planned, Lighting upgrades near the overpasses and upgrades to signal poles on Court Avenue are also in discussion.
Both the outlined improvements, and the agreement to share in the costs have not been finalized. Because the aesthetic enhancements have not been finalized, the cost is still unknown.
On the downtown portion of the project, Waiz said previously that the price the Walsh group gave him to make the aesthetic improvements totaled about $1.5 million. Under the structure of the agreement in principle with INDOT the downtown changes would cost Jeffersonville $300,000.
The agreement would also need to be approved by the redevelopment commission and the Jeffersonville City Council before the changes could move forward.
When asked if he was disappointed that the upgraded aesthetics weren’t built into the project from the start, Waiz said, “I’m just pleased to be part of the process. The improvements we’re going to make are going to last for the next 50-75 years,” he added.