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April 17, 2012

Results of bridges study positive

Report says project will generate nearly 18,000 jobs annually

A study required in order for Indiana to finance its portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project was released Monday and offered that the economic impact will include nearly 18,000 jobs annually, result in $27.3 billion in personal income and $78 billion in economic output for the region.

The study was conducted by the Boston-based Economic Development Research Group in about seven weeks.

Jim McGoff, general counsel for the Indiana Finance Authority, said during a public hearing that an economic impact and preliminary feasibility study are required by Indiana statute in order to enter into a public-private agreement, which the state identified as its preferred financing structure for the project.

Although the state is only responsible for financing the $1.3 billion east-end portion of the bridges project, the study included a regional impact of the five counties — Clark and Floyd in Indiana, as well as Bullitt County, Jefferson County and Oldham County in Kentucky — modeled in the environmental documentation.

The economic impact focus, however, was limited to Clark and Floyd counties.

The study

The economic impact study was required to analyze specific criteria: Economic impacts on existing commercial and industrial development; potential impacts on employment; potential for future development near the project area, including consideration of locations for interchanges that will maximize opportunities for development; fiscal impacts on revenues to local units of government and demands on government services, such as public safety, public works, education, zoning and building, and local airports.

The study, which would normally take about eight weeks, was initially requested to be returned in four to six weeks. However, the results were delayed to allow Economic Development Research Group more time and the study was returned in about seven weeks.

Indiana Department of Transportation Spokesman Will Wingfield said in an email, the additional time was provided to enable the research to be more complete.

“The project has been studied extensively for years, and Indiana believes the Economic Impact Study reinforces what has been previously known about the project,” Wingfield said.

Economic Development Research group began the survey in February, interviewing 29 “key individuals” and an online business survey provided input from 81 respondents. The findings were based on the results of the regional travel demand model in combination with the findings of site visits to the two Indiana counties.

In addition, there was a Feb. 29 public meeting seeking public comment and a survey notice was sent to more than 2,000 members of the business community, Wingfield said.

Despite a paltry turnout, which included only three speakers at the public meeting, Wingfield said the overall study went beyond what was required.

“We believe a good sampling was used and have been informed that the number surveyed was more than needed for the scope of this study.” he said.

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