By MATT KOESTERS
NEW ALBANY —
The Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority voted unanimously to finalize a bistate development agreement that will govern the construction, financing and long-term management of the Ohio River Bridges Project at a meeting on the campus of Indiana University Southeast on Monday.
“It’s truly a monumental occasion,” said Indiana Public Finance Director Kendra York. “Nothing like this has ever been done in the country, where you have two states coming together to finance a major infrastructure project like this. So it’s huge. We’re very excited.”
The Bridges Authority’s vote on the development agreement is the final vote needed to formalize the agreement. Earlier this month, the agreement was approved by the Indiana Finance Authority and the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority.
The Bridges Project will add two new river crossings for Louisville and Southern Indiana and rebuild downtown interchanges on both sides. Kentucky is responsible for the downtown crossing, which calls for building a new Interstate 65 bridge for northbound traffic, reconstructing the Kennedy Interchange, also known as Spaghetti Junction, and replacing the deck of the Kennedy Bridge and configuring it for southbound-only traffic.
Indiana is responsible for the east-end crossing, which calls for building a new bridge near Prospect, Ky., and Utica, as well as highways that connect Interstate 265 in both states.
The development agreement, along with a related interlocal agreement, creates a joint board that will have long-term oversight and management responsibility for the Bridges Project. The four-member joint board will consist of the leaders of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority and the Indiana Finance Authority.
“Our partners in Kentucky have just been wonderful to work with, and I think it’s an agreement we’re both proud of,” York said.
Members of the joint board, together with an additional representative from the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority and Indiana Finance Authority, also will function as a tolling body that will develop and implement tolling policy. The additional members will allow for local representation.
According to York, tolling rates have not yet been established for the east-end crossing. If tolls are not sufficient to make payments to the bridge’s developer, “any shortfall would be paid from INDOT’s budget,” she said. Toll revenues will also be used on any necessary bridge maintenance.
“But if there was a situation where the bridge was in good shape, major rehabilitation was taken care of and there still was an excess of toll revenues, I think we would want the ability to use those revenues wherever INDOT needed them in their budget,” York said.
On Friday, the Indiana Finance Authority announced the receipt of final technical and financial proposals from four short-listed contracting teams for the construction of the east-end bridge.
“Over the next few weeks, the Indiana Finance Authority will carefully evaluate each proposal with the assistance of the Indiana Department of Transportation,” York said. “I’m confident that the winning proposal will include innovative design and financing ideas that will save money and speed the construction of this vital project.”
The east-end bridge, which is estimated to have a $1.3 billion price tag, is scheduled for completion in June 2017.
AUTHORITY HONORS STEMLER
The Bridges Authority voted unanimously to pass a resolution commending Sellersburg businessman Kerry Stemler for his three years of service on the all-volunteer board. Stemler, a charter member of the Bridges Authority who served as the board’s co-chair, was recently appointed to the board of the Indiana Finance Authority.
“He was a true help to us, guiding this thing for the last three years,” said Bridges Authority Chairman Charles Buddeke.
Pat Byrne was chosen to serve as the Bridges Authority’s new co-chair, while Pete King is the Bridges Authority’s new treasurer.