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April 26, 2013

Jeffersonville officials say Indiana being slighted by bridges aesthetics

$10 million budgeted for Kentucky portion; nothing in Indiana

(Continued)

JEFFERSONVILLE — EAST END

On Indiana’s portion of the project, the short end of the stick theme persisted.

The east-end portion of the project is being completed by Indiana through the contracting team WVB East End Partners at an estimated construction cost of $763 million.

Waiz offered a slide from a presentation given to the area advisory team on the east-end portion of the project showing all the different focus areas for aesthetics in Kentucky, which totaled nine points, including the Ohio River Bridge. In Indiana, there were two: the Ohio River Bridge and the approach to the bridge.

Waiz continued by offering some of the highlights to the Kentucky plan that included cobblestone form liners along with 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.

“They’re really enhancing that area, which they should,” he said. “All I want is for our area to get enhanced as well.”

Waiz continued that the east-end in Kentucky had sound barriers, while there were none in Indiana.

“There’s no sound barriers on our side [and] we actually go through two different subdivisions,” he said. “Whenever the individual gave his presentation, he said, ‘look at all the nice fencing and everything,’ which is very nice,” Waiz said, referring to the presentation given at the aesthetics open house last week. “I wasn’t being a smart aleck or anything, but I said, ‘I guess the black chain-link is for Indiana? He said, ‘yeah.’”

“There’s a huge, huge discrepancy on the east-end bridge,” Waiz said. “We’re going to have to stand up and stand up quick[ly] and say we’re not happy.”

MAKE ‘EM HAPPY

Waiz said at the outset of his presentation that he was surprised to see the discrepancies in the Indiana and Kentucky projects.

But INDOT Spokesman Will Wingfield said plans have been presented to, and discussions have been ongoing, with area advisory teams for years.

“A lot of the aspects were discussed and decided long before the projects were divided between Indiana and Kentucky,” Wingfield said. “A lot of that was carried forward, and that’s how the project was bid.”

He said those plans included landscape design and other tree plantings. He added that two aesthetics open houses were held last week. That was in addition to the six open houses held throughout the last month, including one on blasting held in Louisville’s east end Thursday.

“We’ve gone above and beyond the commitments that have been made on the project,” Wingfield said in relation to aesthetics. “We’ve finally overcome this ‘us versus them’ mentality that has held us up for decades. If that’s something the local officials are interested in they need to provide more specifics and quickly,” he said of the desire to upgrade the look of the project.

He added if a decision is reached locally that upgrades need to be made to the project’s look, the local government entities would likely be asked cover the costs of the improvements and the cost to maintain the aesthetics.

“That has been the agreement in other areas of Indiana,” Wingfield said.

Local officials do plan to act quickly to change the look of the project.

The redevelopment commission agreed to send a resolution to state officials, including the governor, expressing their disappointment in the plans proposed. Waiz added that he will be urging other area agencies to pass and submit similar resolutions.

“It’s disappointing to me that Jeffersonville is in this defensive situation to try and protect some aesthetics and some economic development opportunity, when the state of Indiana should have done this from the get-go,” said Redevelopment Commissioner James Lake. “It’s a real shame that the city is not only doing the battling, but the state of Indiana is not only not leading it, they’re not assisting.”

If changes aren’t made to the look of the project, the redevelopment commission offered their only alternative may be an attempt to slow the construction of the bridges to get the improvements made.

“It might be our only action we can take would result in the project being slowed down, but it would be for the benefit of, not only the city, but for the state,” Lake said.

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