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January 20, 2013

East-end bridge plans change, move forward

There’s a new design, and potential delays

(Continued)

WHY THE CHANGES?

Built into the proposals that INDOT chose from to determine a contracting team were various alterations to speed up the project and drive down the cost.

“There’s been a number of changes in the project since 2009-2010,” Wingfield said.

One of the major ones made was when Indiana decided to pursue the procurement method of a public-private partnership, or a P3.

“The P3 delivery model has the contractor doing a large amount of design,” Wingfield said.

It was through that process that the bridge was changed.

“The contractor gets to decide which is the most cost effective,” Wingfield said. “People that build bridges for a living have a better understanding of what it’s going to cost to build and maintain bridges.”

Wingfield noted that the bridge design chosen by WVB East End Partners is very similar to one favored by the public in a 2006 survey and the design changes to the bridge still have to be approved by the state.

In December 2006, the state chose to move forward on a median, cable-stayed bridge for the new east-end span after a series of public meetings which offered up a choice of more than 40 different bridge designs. At the meeting, the public actually preferred a diamond-tower, cable-stayed bridge to the median, cable-stayed bridge 51 percent to 32 percent.

Despite the preference of the public, the state chose to go with the design that had been in the Ohio River Bridges projects plans up until WVB East End Partners submitted its bid. The median, cable-stayed bridge was chosen over the diamond-tower, cable-stayed bridge, in part due to the expected cost of each span. In 2006, it was estimated the median, cable-stayed bridge would cost $230 million compared to $245 million for the diamond-tower plan.

Wingfield said changes in the projects overall scope altered the expected cost of each of the spans. The median design was chosen under the assumption the bridge would be three lanes in each direction, with the state designing the project and the plan going through a traditional procurement.

“The state ... thought the median span was the best decision based on the conditions at the time,” he said. “[But] when the state makes a decision, it’s not made with public sector competition. If WVB would have thought a different design would have been better, they probably would have gone with that.”

Wingfield added that contractors also considered long-term costs.

“The diamond design is easier to build and maintain,” he said. “When you’re talking about a bridge over the Ohio River, that’s important.”

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