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February 1, 2013

Governor visits Amazon, east-end bridge site

CLARK COUNTY —  Newly-elected Gov. Mike Pence got his first look at what Indiana will construct as its portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project Friday afternoon.

Pence, along with Indiana Department of Transportation officials, toured the Utica site where the new east-end bridge will connect Interstate 265 in Prospect, Ky., to Indiana.

Indiana is responsible for constructing the east-end corridor, including the bridge and its approaches in both states. WVB East End Partners is the contractor for the project, which is estimated to cost $763 million.

Tree clearing and vacant building demolition began on Jan. 15 on the east-end approaches, according to an Ohio River Bridges Project construction update. Clarksville-based Gohmann Construction Inc. is performing the work in Prospect, Ky., and Dan Cristiani Excavating, also of Clarksville, is performing the work in Utica.

Pence pointed to the importance of the bridges project and the region as a transportation crossroads.

“We’ve also got, I think, a great location,” Pence said. “But you can have the best location in the world if you can’t get from a to b that’s not going to create an environment that attracts investment in ways that will create jobs for today and for tomorrow. Making sure we’re maintaining and constructing the kind of infrastructure that will encourage investment here in Indiana is a priority for our administration.”

The infrastructure improvements also includes a downtown bridge and reconstruction of Spaghetti Junction in Louisville. Kentucky is responsible for the downtown portion of the project.

Recurring complaints about the bridges project have included concern by Indiana business owners on the impact the new downtown bridge and its tolls will have on their businesses.

Clarksville and the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau approved an interlocal agreement that pledged $10,000 to fight tolling on Interstate 65 bridges over the Ohio River. Jeffersonville’s City Council has yet to approve the interlocal agreement. The council approved 6-3 at a December meeting to seek an interlocal agreement with the tourism bureau and to dedicate $10,000 out of the city’s gaming fund, subject to another approval of the agreement by the council.

“I think when we all went through the experience of the Sherman Minton bridge closure we understand the critical importance of infrastructure in this region,” Pence said in response to the concerns that the downtown bridge will affect Southern Indiana businesses. “Finding a way with the new financing tools that we have in Indiana to complete this project is appropriate and prudent and it is going to create an environment that is already and is going to continue to attract the kind of significant investment that will make this project a win-win, for Hoosiers, for small business owners and for our economy as a whole.”

He also addressed claims that Indiana commuters will pay a disproportionate amount of the tolls on the new bridges.

“We’re going to continue to sharpen our pencils ... [to] make sure Hoosiers get a fair deal and make sure taxpayers broadly get a fair deal,” he said. “I’m confident we’ll be able to do that, and I’m confident we’ll be able to work with our partners in Kentucky to accomplish that.”

Groundbreaking on the east-end bridge occurred in late August when the construction of a 3,000-foot extension of Old Salem Road began. The road will provide improved access to the River Ridge Commerce Center and the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville.

Gohmann Asphalt is pouring concrete, driving steel pilings and placing fill for a 170-foot overpass at the first exit on the Indiana side of the East End Bridge, according to INDOT. Contractors are also excavating and blasting to install new drainage pipes.

Work on the bridge itself and its approaches is expected to begin this summer after a second and final notice to proceed is issued by Indiana following “financial close.”

Financial close, which details the financial terms of the procurement, is anticipated near the end of March. The east-end bridge is expected to be opened to traffic by the end of October 2016.

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Allan Leith, and daughter, Grace, Louisville, head back after reaching the now blocked off end of the Big Four Bridge in Jeffersonville Wednesday afternoon.

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