Local officials from Indiana and Kentucky are teaming up to push for construction of an Interstate 69 bridge over the Ohio River near Evansville within the next eight years.
The BridgeLink partnership involving government and business leaders from Evansville and Henderson, Ky., plan to lobby officials in both state capitals and Washington for the estimated $1.2 billion project, the Evansville Courier & Press reported (http://bit.ly/GXZo9j ).
The first part of a nearly 100-mile section of I-69 north from Evansville opened last year and a stretch to Bloomington should be finished late next year. In Kentucky, more than 55 miles of the Western Kentucky Parkway and Interstate 24 are now designated as I-69.
Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said a new Ohio River bridge is needed to link the highway sections rather than relying on the current U.S. 41 bridges, which are now the area’s only spans over the river.
“We feel if we don’t have an aggressive timeline, it delays the project,” Winnecke said.
Brad Schneider, president of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce, said money for the partnership’s anticipated $100,000 annual budget will come from both private and public sources.
“We have had citizens thinking it won’t happen in their lifetime,” Schneider said of an I-69 bridge. “We have to talk about it being inevitable, not impossible.”
Henderson Mayor Steve Austin said the I-69 bridge would be a big boost toward attracting companies to the area.
“I-69 will not be complete and will not bring economic growth to our area until the supporting bridge is built across the river here,” Austin said.
Evansville-area congressmen say tight budgets make it unlikely the federal government will fund the bridge project.
Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind. has said possibilities to consider include a public/private partnership that would involve private investors putting up some of the money or making it a toll bridge.