The Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges project, designed to improve cross-river mobility for the entire region, took a step forward Friday with federal approval of a new environmental impact statement. Jose Sepulveda, Kentucky division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration, signed the Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project, which involves construction of two bridges and reconstruction of the Kennedy interchange.
The Supplemental FEIS was required after Govs. Steve Beshear of Kentucky and Mitch Daniels of Indiana, together with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, agreed to modifications that cut the cost of the project by $1.5 billion. Their leadership got the long-awaited project off the drawing board and on a path to construction, which is expected to begin before the end of the year.
With the approval by Sepulveda, the Supplemental FEIS is submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for publication in the Federal Register. The final sign-off will come with federal approval of a revised Record of Decision, which the two states expect to receive in mid-June. A Record of Decision allows Indiana and Kentucky to invest federal funds in the selected alternative for the project.
The Ohio River Bridges Project bore an estimated cost of $4.1 billion before Beshear, Daniels and Fischer stepped in. Their recommended changes reduced the cost to $2.6 billion. The single most significant change involves rebuilding the Kennedy Interchange in its current location, rather than reconstructing it further south. The Kennedy Interchange is where Interstates 64, 65 and 71 converge in downtown Louisville.
In another major advance for the project, Beshear and Daniels decided to divide the procurement into roughly equal parts. Kentucky will be in charge of constructing the Downtown Crossing and its approaches and reconstruction of the Kennedy Interchange. Indiana will be in charge of building an East End bridge between Utica, Ind., and Prospect, Ky., plus its approaches.