1:04pm

Thu June 2, 2011
The Commonwealth

Changes to Bridges Could Save $1.2 Billion

Proposed changes to the Ohio River Bridges Project would result in larger savings than previously expected. In January, Mayor Greg Fischer, Governor Steve Beshear and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels proposed several cuts to the project, including rebuilding Spaghetti Junction in place and making the east end bridge four lanes wide instead of six.

It was expected the changes would save $500 million, but new calculations show that the project will cost $1.2 billion less if the proposals become reality. That would make the total cost of the project $2.9 billion.

There is currently no financing plan in place for the bridges project. Mayor’s spokesperson Chris Poynter says without guaranteed federal assistance, other options have to be pursued.

“…Public-private partnerships, tolls will likely be involved in the financing, but because we have a much cheaper project to build, that will result in cheaper costs and most likely cheaper tolls,” he says.

The bi-state bridges authority previously planned to use toll revenue to pay for about half of the project. That’s drawn the ire of various groups who have proposed building only the east end bridge or building the east end bridge first without tolls, then building the new Spaghetti Junction and a downtown span as financing is available.

Poynter says there won’t be any more design changes proposed, though more savings could be realized as the project is open to bids from contractors. The changes are still subject to a federal environmental review, though the authority hopes to begin construction in August of next year.