The Abraham Lincoln Bridge carries Interstate 65 northbound over the Ohio River between Louisville, Kentucky and New Albany, Indiana.
The first proposal for a second Interstate 65 bridge over the Ohio River came on July 26, 2002, when the governors of Kentucky and Indiana announced plans for two new bridges in Louisville. 6
Kentucky and Indiana initiated and funded the initial $22.1 million Ohio River Bridges Study, 6 which concluded that in order to relieve traffic congestion along Interstates 64, 65 and 71, an Interstate 265 bridge, a parallel Interstate 65 span and a reconstructed Kennedy Interchange for Interstates 64, 65 and 71 would be needed. The Federal Highway Administration came to the same conclusion in 2003. 14 15
The Louisville-Southern Indiana Bridge Authority (LSIBA), a 14-member commission was tasked with developing a financial plan and establishing funding mechanisms for construction, was formed in October 2009. 13
The Ohio River Bridges Project was formally announced as a partnership between the states of Kentucky and Indiana on July 26, 2012. 6 The project entailed:
- Constructing a new Interstate 65 northbound bridge over the Ohio River
- Renovating the Kennedy Bridge for southbound Interstate 65 traffic
- Building a new Interstate 265 crossing over the Ohio River northeast of Louisville
- Reconstructing the Interstate 64, 65 and 71 interchange in Louisville
The projected cost was $2.5 billion. 6
A Structured Public Involvement (SPI), developed by Drs. K. Bailey and T. Grossardt, was used to elicit public preferences for the design of the second Ohio River crossing for Interstate 65. 7 The public involvement processed focused on designs that the public felt were more suitable, as shown by real-time polling.
Pedestrian and cycling lanes were included in the original plans. 8 With the conversion of the Big Four Bridge into a pedestrian and cycling bridge, the extra provisions on the Abraham Lincoln Bridge were removed.
The final design alternatives were announced on July 19, 2006, which included a three-span arch, a cable-stayed design with three towers, and a cable-stayed design with a single A-shaped tower. It was also announced that the projected cost for the new crossing would be $203 million. 6
In 2006, the Kentucky General Assembly allocated $789 million for the Ohio River Bridges Project over the next six years, but it was still not enough to finance the projects. 16 Work began to find alternative solutions to fund the bridge projects. The task, explored by U.S. Representative Yarmuth, stated that public-private partnerships would get the bridge built within five years and have the cost “get back to the original, or the last estimated cost.”
Republican David Williams, Kentucky’s Senate president, pre-filed a bill that would allow local authorities to consider tolls and other funding sources. Tolling could remove as much as 16 years from the construction schedule, and had the support from the Build the Bridges Coalition and other local leaders. 17 The $3.9 billion Ohio River Bridges Project cost was projected to consume 18.5% of Kentucky’s discretionary highway money over 24 years if it was built without an alternate funding plan. 18
On October 1, 2007, the financial plan was modified as the cost of the Ohio River Bridges Project had increased to $4.1 billion, the second cost increase in just a year. 17 The plan recommended that Kentucky’s $2.9 billion share be covered through federal and state money that it received through gasoline taxes and other revenue, possibly through tolls, and that Indiana’s $1.1 billion share be covered through proceeds from the leasing of the Indiana Toll Road. Both transportation departments signed off on the deal, although the Federal Highway Administration had still yet to agree.
About $185 million was included for the Ohio River Bridges Project in the 2007 Kentucky two-year budget that was on top of the initial $789 million appropriation. 17
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet released a study in February 2008 that noted tolls would be a possible part of the financing package for the Ohio River Bridges Project, as there would be insufficient federal funds for the $4.1 billion project. 12
In 2009, the Kentucky House voted 86-10 and the Senate 35-0, in favor of a bill that would develop a Kentucky and Indiana authority to develop a financing approach for the project. 19 By May, Kentucky had spent more than $108 million towards planning for the project, but without assurances of long-term financing, state official announced that they were intending to delay spending an additional $232 million in bond money. 20 The legislature had previously approved the $232 million for design, right-of-way purchases and construction for the project which would be repaid by future federal highway funds. But spending on the project had declined; in 2006, the state spent $34.3 million, which declined to $13.1 million for 2009. Indiana in total had spent $28 million in total.
On December 18, Kentucky Governor Beshear announced the sale of $100 million in bonds towards the Ohio River Bridges Project. 21 22 The majority of the money was pegged towards the purchasing of right-of-way. Of that, $30 million of that was set aside for 96 properties along the East End Bridge route, 27 of which would require relocation. Twelve properties were purchased earlier under a rule that allowed owners to sell early. Approximately $40 million was set aside for the Downtown Bridge construction, or about a third of what was required. In Indiana, officials spent $10.5 million to buy 82 acres for the Clark County approach to the East End Bridge, leaving $10-$12 million remaining to complete right-of-way acquisition.
Two agencies, the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority, and the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority, voted unanimous to endorse a July 9, 2010 plan to use high-speed, electronic tolling methods to raise $2.2 billion of the project’s cost. 23 The other half of the cost would come from conventional funding, such as fuel taxes. Some groups, including the Louisville Urban League supported the tolling. The Say No to Bridge Tolls group did not, and stated that numerous legislators were not behind the tolling proposal. 19 Ten local governments in Kentucky and southern Indiana, including the Louisville Metro Council, opposed the tolling. 24 25
Tolls would be collected via an open-road, high-speed tolling system with no physical tollbooths. 26 The electronic transponder would be linked to a debit or credit card, all connected to computers and servers like the one people use to connect their video games using a csgo boost guide online. Initial toll rates would be set at $1 per crossing for passenger vehicles and up to $12 per crossing for semi-trucks. 27 The rates would increase 2.5% annually or be pegged to the national inflation rate, whichever is greater. Tolls would be collected over the next 40 years. 20
The LSIBA issued an updated financial plan for the Ohio River Bridges Project on December 16, 2010. The plan envisioned half of the project’s costs financed through tolls on the Kennedy, Lincoln and East End Bridges, with construction beginning in mid-2012.
In a meeting on December 21, 2011 Kentucky Governor Beshear, Indiana Governor Daniels and newly-elected Louisville Mayor Daniels decided upon three major modifications to the Ohio River Bridges project to save $500 million. 28 The decision was the result of months of discussions over how to reduce costs, partially in response to public concerns over the toll proposals.
The modifications include rebuilding the Kennedy Interchange in its current location instead of shifting it south into the Butchertown neighborhood, reducing the number of lanes on the East End Bridge to four, and shift a pedestrian/bike path on the Downtown Bridge to the adjacent Big Four Bridge. 28 29
In November 2013, Kentucky approved the sale of $753 million in bonds to finance the Ohio River Bridges Project. 30 31 Specifically, the approval included $424 million in tax-exempt bond-anticipation notes, $301 million in toll revenue bonds and $28 million in taxable bond-anticipation notes. 31 The bonds, which were scheduled to be sold on December 20. 30 Shortly after, the state was approved for a low-interest, long-term $452.2 million federal highway loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Innovation and Financing Act. 30 32 The loan saved approximately $100 million on financing for the downtown crossing.
The Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority approved of the state joining the EZ-Pass consortium on July 29, 2015. 11 Drivers would have the choice of being tolled by an EZ-Pass transponder, decal or by a pay-by-mail system.
An updated Financial Plan, released in 2016, pegged the estimated cost of the Ohio River Bridges Project at $2.327 billion: 13
- Kennedy interchange in Kentucky: $600.3 million
- Abraham Lincoln Bridge: $339.3 million
- Indiana approach to the Abraham Lincoln Bridge: $196.1 million
- Other costs in Kentucky: $138.5 million
- Total costs for the Abraham Lincoln Bridge: $1,274.2 million
- Kentucky approach to the East End Bridge: $486.1 million
- East End Bridge: $242.4 million
- Indiana approach to the East End Bridge: $228 million
- Other costs in Indiana: 96.3 million
- Total costs for the East End Bridge: $1,052.8 million
In 2013, Kentucky broke ground on the Abraham Lincoln Bridge. 3
The Lincoln Bridge began carrying six lanes of Interstate 65 northbound traffic on December 6, 2015 2 with southbound traffic opening on the bridge later in the month. 9 The Lincoln Bridge opened to northbound traffic only on October 10, 2016 2 while the Kennedy Bridge reopened for southbound traffic on November 14. 10
A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Lincoln Bridge was held on December 5. 1 Tolling on the crossing began on December 30. 4 5