12:46pm

Thu March 1, 2012
State Capitol

300 Firms Attend Ohio River Bridges Meeting

LOUISVILLE – Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday welcomed more than 600 professionals representing more than 300 companies to the first step in selecting the team that will build the downtown portion of the long-awaited Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project. “The Bridges Project is about improving safety and mobility for the citizens of this region,” Beshear said in a statement. “But make no mistake: the Bridges Project means jobs – thousands of good-paying jobs.”

The participants in the pre-bid conference come from 32 states and three provinces of Canada. The conference at the Kentucky International Convention Center was mandatory for contractors who intend to be the lead of a design-build team.

“This conference is an important and tangible step,” Beshear said. “It is further evidence that we are serious about bringing to reality a project that this region has talked about – but been unable to deliver – since Lyndon Johnson was President and gasoline was 35 cents a gallon.”

The overall Ohio River Bridges project includes construction of two bridges – one to carry northbound Interstate 65 from downtown Louisville to Jeffersonville, Ind., and an East End Bridge to unite I-265 near Prospect with Indiana 265 near Utica. The project also includes reconstruction of the Kennedy Interchange in Louisville and reconfiguration of the Kennedy Bridge for southbound I-65 traffic only.

To speed the project from drawing board to reality, Beshear and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels agreed that each state should take the lead on financing and building half of the project. Kentucky is taking the downtown portion – the new I-65 bridge, the Kennedy Interchange and the Indiana approach to the new bridge. Indiana is taking the East End bridge with both the Indiana and Kentucky approaches.

Earlier, the two governors, joined by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, recommended scope and schedule changes that have reduced the overall project’s price tag by nearly 40 percent – from an estimated $4.1 billion to $2.6 billion.

On Friday, Indiana will host a similar meeting for prospective East End contractors. Both conferences were planned to provide interested contractors with more information about procurement.

Last week, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet issued a Request for Qualifications from design-build teams of bridge- and road-building professionals. Teams have until April 2 to submit their qualifications. From that field, KYTC will select three finalist teams by April 16.

The finalists will spend the summer developing specific proposals, including technical designs, cost details and innovative concepts. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet plans to select the winning team in October, with an eye toward the beginning of preliminary construction work before the end of 2012.

The Ohio River Bridges Project will greatly increase cross-river mobility and improve safety in a vital commercial corridor whose infrastructure capacity has long been outstripped by daily traffic demands, a press release said.

The need for added mobility in the Louisville area was made obvious last fall with the forced closure of another downtown crossing, the I-64 Sherman Minton Bridge. Structural repairs forced a five-month closure to repair the bridge, which was reopened on Feb. 17.