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January 4, 2013

Settlement reached in bridges lawsuit

Parties in Ohio River Bridges suit agree to drop it in return for more historic preservation; east-end bridge gets design changes

LOUISVILLE — A lawsuit brought in 2009 by two preservation organizations to halt the Ohio River Bridges Project has been settled.

The Indiana Department of Transportation, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and River Fields Inc. announced the settlement Friday evening in a joint press release. All four parties agreed to dismiss the pending lawsuit initiated by the National Trust and River Fields in exchange for additional commitments to historic preservation and public involvement, the release states.

The settlement agreement recognizes that INDOT and KYTC have now entered into contracts that provide for essentially simultaneous construction of the downtown and east end portions of the project.

The settlement agreement includes a range of commitments by INDOT and KYTC regarding the

protection of historic properties, public involvement and communications during construction of the project, and issues related to drainage and water runoff.

The settlement calls for both states to create a Historic Preservation and Enhancement Fund, to be established with $1.7 million in state funds provided equally by INDOT and KYTC. State Historic Preservation Officers for Indiana and Kentucky will use the Fund to administer grants to local governments and nonprofit organizations for rehabilitating, preserving and enhancing historic properties and districts within the areas affected by the bridges project.

The agreement lists projects that are eligible for grants from the Fund. Eligible projects include, among others, grants for the protection and interpretation of notable African-American sites in eastern Jefferson

County, Ky., including the historic Jefferson Jacobs School, a Rosenwald School, in Louisville.

The agreement also includes commitments by INDOT and KYTC to carry out actions that go above and beyond the states’ existing historic preservation commitments. These additional actions include

efforts to protect and relocate historic homes in Jeffersonville, one of the nation’s oldest cities west of the Alleghenies; to develop and submit nominations for properties to be listed in the National Register

of Historic Places; to nominate a section of Upper River Road as a National Scenic Byway; and to install historical markers.

In addition, the agreement includes commitments regarding public meetings and communications during the construction phase of the project; development of blasting and vibration monitoring plans for historic properties; and public availability of information regarding permitting for the stormwater management features of the east-end bridge.

Based on these commitments by INDOT, KYTC, the National Trust and River Fields have agreed to dismiss all of their claims in the current lawsuit and waived the right to challenge permits and approvals issued prior to execution of the settlement agreement. All the parties will bear their own attorneys’ fees and other costs of the litigation, the release says.

Construction for the east-end bridge is under way and the bridge and a downtown span connecting the downtowns of Jeffersonville and Louisville is expected to be completed in 2016.

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Theater students rehearse a scene from "Seussical the Musical," directed by Silver Creek Theater Director, Alonzo Richmond, and New Albany Theater Director Amy Harpenau at the New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater Thursday evening. The musical includes around 70 students from 12 local schools that will be performing Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

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