Design and route
A proposal to construct a bridge, connecting Interstate 265 in Indiana to Interstate 265 in Kentucky, have been in discussions for decades. The lack of a true regional bypass has left through-travelers on inner-city interstates that are overwhelmed with traffic, which feature antiquated interchanges, narrow shoulder widths and curvatures that result in a higher-than-normal accident rate.
The first real proposal for an East End Bridge came on July 26, 2002, when the governors of Kentucky and Indiana announced plans for the bypass, connecting the two disjointed Interstate 265′s on the eastern and northern fringes of the metropolitan area.(1) The original estimated cost of the entire Ohio River Bridges Project was $2.5 billion and the development would be the largest transportation project ever constructed between the two states. Due to the sheer cost and size, it was considered a mega-project.
The two governors also initiated and funded the $22.1 million Ohio River Bridges Study (1), 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 would be the optimum solution. In 2003, the Federal Highway Administration, Indiana Department of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet came to the conclusion that the optimal method to meet the transportation needs between the two states was to construct two new bridges, the Kennedy and the East End Bridge, and rebuild the Kennedy Interchange.(5)(28)
In early 2005, the Bridge Type Selection Process began with the design teams presenting 15 (10) renderings and plans and receiving feedback at public meetings and votes, open houses, and web-sites (2)(4). Nearly 5,000 votes were cast from the Ohio River Bridges Project web-site alone on the preferred bridge selection, and more than 600 were cast at open houses (4)(5). Numerous comments at the public meetings and votes from the online forms and open houses voiced a strong desire for the East End Bridge to be as “visually transparent” as possible (3), for both the motorists and pedestrians that would use the bridge, and for those on land looking at the Ohio River.
On July 19, 2006 (10), the Executive Bridge Type Selection Committee, composed of 16 members (4) had narrowed down the bridge types to three and requested additional public feedback. On December 12, 2006 (5), Design A-15 was chosen over the six alternatives presented for the East End Bridge (2). The design selected as a cable-stayed suspension bridge with two 229 ft. towers (3), and suspension cables that radiated down to the center of the span. The center cable design maximized the the bridge’s “transparency” that was originally desired during the commenting period, and reduced the span’s visual impact from land. It was also $15 million cheaper than the other alternatives (4) and would require less maintenance in the long-term. The bridge would also include six 12 ft. lanes for traffic, a full right and left shoulder and a 17 ft.-wide pedestrian and a bike path.
Design work, along with discussions regarding “lighting, colors and textures”, was completed by 2008 (4).
Heading northbound from Kentucky to Indiana, the interstate would pass through the historic Drumanard Estate in a 2,000 ft., six-lane tunnel (11), as the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.(24) The highway would reappear from the tunnel near the Shadow Wood subdivision and cross Transylvania Branch before crossing the Ohio River. In Indiana, it would pass near the Clark Maritime Center before merging with Indiana State Route 265 at the Indiana State Route 62 interchange.
In Indiana,the interchange with Indiana State Route 62 was initially designed to be a cloverleaf variant, and would replace the existing interchange.(27) The proposal, pegged at $118 million, was later disfavored when the Indiana Department of Transportation announced that the interchange would be converted into a diverging diamond at a cost of $52 million. The interchange type, which is a compact diamond interchange with lane role reversals, has only been implemented in a few locations throughout the United States. The diverging diamond would utilize the existing Interstate 265 bridges over Indiana State Route 62.
The estimated project cost for the East End Bridge was $378 million (3). This had risen dramatically from $270 million, a late-2006 estimate (4), and an earlier $230 million early-2006 estimate (9)(10). The rise could be attributed to the rapidly inflating prices for construction materials, especially concrete, due to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina events. Due to the rapidly rising cost, rising 60% in 2005 alone, the Ohio River Bridges Project now costs $3.9 billion, up from $2.5 billion in 2005 (6) and $1.9 billion in 2003 (12); completing the project sooner has since become a priority.
On July 29, 2005, Congress approved $58 million for the bridges project as part of a $286.4 billion national transportation bill (12), rising the total appropriations since the late 1990s to $120 million.
In 2006, the Kentucky General Assembly allocated $789 million for the Ohio River Bridges Project over the next six years, but the funding plan was re-evaluated every two years (6). Work began to find alternative solutions to fund the bridge projects. The task, being explored by U.S. Representative Yarmuth, has stated that partnerships between the government and the private sector may get the bridge built within five years and have it cost “get back to the original, or the last estimated cost.” (6)
The $3.9 billion Ohio River Bridges Project cost would have consumed 18.5% of Kentucky’s discretionary highway money over 24 years if it was built without an alternate funding plan. (15)
On October 1, 2007, the financial plan was modified as the cost of the project increased to $4.1 billion, the second cost increase in just a year when the prior $3.9 billion estimate was released in December 2006. (16) The plan recommended that Kentucky’s $2.9 billion share be covered through federal and state money that it receives 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 have signed off on the deal, although the Federal Highway Administration has still yet to agree.
The cost increases were attributed to revised construction and design estimates, as well as a higher annual inflation rate in fuel and construction material prices. The cost to construct the East End Bridge approach and tunnel rose by $143 million, or about 24%. (16)
About $185 million is included for the Ohio River Bridges Project in the state’s most recent two-year budget, and $789 million is appropriated in the six-year highway plan that runs through 2012. (16) The escalating prices, however, have led the General Assembly to question whether there is a more efficient method of financing the highway, especially since it is considered a mega project due to its size. Republican David Williams, Kentucky’s Senate president, has 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 has the support from the Build the Bridges Coalition and other local leaders. (16)
Tolls would be collected via an open-road, high-speed tolling system, where no physical tollbooths are located and where a system such as EZ-Pass is used.(25) The electronic transponder, which is tagged to a debit or credit card, would automatically deduct money when an EZ-Pass-enabled toll collection system is passed through.
Under a toll plan, work would start as early as 2008 and be complete by 2024. The East End Bridge would open by 2014, and a southbound Interstate 65 bridge would be open by 2020. A redesigned Kennedy Interchange would be complete by 2024. (16)
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.(21) 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.(28) 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.
On December 18, Kentucky Governor Beshear announced the sale of $100 million in bonds towards the Ohio River Bridges Project.(29)(30) The majority of the money was pegged towards the purchasing of right-of-way. $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.
The East End Bridge is projected to divert 6% of through-traffic from Interstate 64 through downtown Louisville, according to Downtown Development Corporation (6). This comes at a time when the Kennedy Interchange, nicknamed the Spaghetti Junction for its unforgiving roadway design, has a very high accident rate and is at capacity. Several ideas have been proposed at various public meetings in order to boost through-traffic projections along the East End Bridge, some of it relating to the “8664″ proposal.
According to the “8664″ proposal, Interstate 64 west of the Kennedy Interchange with Interstates 65 and 71 to Interstate 264 west of downtown would be removed. The elevated viaduct acts as a large six-lane steel and concrete barrier separating downtown Louisville from the Ohio River, and interferes with the Louisville Waterfront Park. Interstate 64 would then be routed onto Interstate 264 south of the existing Interstate 64. The idea, which has garnered considerable support, is being studied in part as a possible cheaper alternative for the Kennedy Interchange reconstruction and as a viable way for through-traffic to bypass downtown Louisville via the East End Bridge and Interstate 265 (7). It would also “reclaim valuable waterfront property for public use” (8).
In June 2005, the Indiana Department of Transportation paid $2.8 million for a seven-acre tract of land — the first piece of land acquired as part of the Ohio River Bridges Project (13). The transportation department also made bids on two other tracts, although the owners have went to court to demand for additional money. Total acreage needed for the project is 382 acres (13), including 123 residences and 80 businesses. Kentucky began land purchases in 2007 and will be finished by 2008, while Indiana will ramp up efforts for land purchases until 2009.
Construction began on a reconstructed US 42 interchange in Louisville in May 2006 (11). The partially-complete diamond interchange featured a one-lane eastbound-only off- and westbound-only on-ramp. The reconstruction will relocate the off-ramp to the west side of the interchange and will be controlled by a traffic signal. Through Interstate 265 traffic will cross over the ramp and US 42 before descending into the Drumanard Estate tunnel.
In the summer of 2007, construction began on a test bore through limestone and shale for the new Interstate 265 tunnel.(14) The tunnel, which will be 12 ft. by 12 ft., will connect with the main tunnel that will eventually carry six-lanes of through traffic immediately south of the Ohio River span. The tunnel will take slightly less than two years to dig the 1,800 ft. bore under US 42 and the Drumanard estate, and will be used to test the strength of the rock and carry out other tests that will allow officials to determine the best design of the tunnel. (14)
Plans for right-of-way acquisition was to be announced in the fall of 2007, with construction on the East End Bridge beginning by 2009 with a completion date of 2013,(14)(9), but cost overruns on the Ohio River Bridges project let the development process languish.
In December 2009, the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency (KRPDA) did not renew the Louisville region’s long-range transportation plan when it expired, because there was no source of funding for the Ohio River Bridges Project.(30) Because the funding source was a federal requirement, the government gave KRPDA one year to complete the plan. But to do that, KRPDA said they would need a bi-state authority to produce a financing strategy for the project.
In January 2010, Kentucky began the appraisal process for more than 100 properties in Jefferson County along the proposed East End and Downtown bridges path.(30) By this point, groups opposing tolling of the bridges and those concerned with the cost overruns began dominating the public comments and meetings of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority.(17)
On June 16, the Say No to Bridge Tolls group requested to the Kentucky Heritage Council that the historic Drumanard estate be de-listed from the National Register of Historic Places, in a bid to save taxpayers the cost of constructing a tunnel under the property.(24) The estate was listed on the register in 1983. he anti-toll group noted that the estate “is not architecturally or historically significant” and that it included a wooded area that “may not have met the criteria for listing.” In one instance, a 1992 expansion of the property included landscaping designed by the firm Frederick Law Olmsted, but that it was completed 26 years after Olmstead’s death.
But the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C. stated that the landscaping was designed by Olmstead’s son, and that any de-listing could “get the ball rolling” on other de-listing proposals for the sake that they are in the wrong location.(24)
The cost of the Ohio River Bridges project had risen substantially, and construction was being delayed due to financing problems. The idea of tolling all river crossings in the Louisville region, including the Interstate 64 Sherman Minton Bridge and the U.S. Route 31 Clark Memorial Bridge, was discussed.
A report, sent in early December, that assumed that tolls would pay for more than half of the Ohio River Bridges Project was sent to the Federal Highway Administration to fulfill a requirement.(21) 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. The plan was based on a one-way trip cost of $3.
Other 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.(21) Ten local governments in Kentucky and southern Indiana, including the Louisville Metro Council, opposed the tolling.(22)(26)
In a meeting on December 21, 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, which could potentially reduce tolls and speed up construction.(17) 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 Spaghetti Junction interchange in its current location instead of shifting it south into Butchertown, reducing the number of lanes on the East End Bridge to four total, and shift a pedestrian/bike path on the Downtown Bridge to the adjacent pedestrian-only Big Four Bridge.(17)(20) The bike path on the Downtown Bridge would cost $50 million, versus the conversion of the Big Four, which would cost $10 million to complete the bridge decking.(20) The current fiscal year 2011 Kentucky highway budget has marked $12 million to redeck the Big Four, but no money has been allocated to connect the Big Four to the Indiana shore.
In addition, the group announced on January 4, 2011 that tolls would only be sought on the East End Bridge and the Downtown Bridge, not on any other crossing, due to the cost reductions.(19) The cost savings would drop the price of the entire project to $3.6 billion.
The cost reducing ideas were generated around the idea that no major modifications be made to the alignment for fear that a new environmental impact statement would need to be created, which would then cause substantial delays to the project. Officials dismissed changes to the tunnel and the alignment for the East End Bridge, for instance.(17) But several environmental law experts noted that the plan could trigger a broad federal review and revive alternatives to the bridges effort that were earlier dismissed.(18) Because the changes are so extensive and the plans are nearly a decade old, the environmental groups stated that the change will necessitate additional reviews.
In a 2006 letter from the Federal Highway Administration to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Indiana Department of Transportation, it warned that modifying the project by reconstructing the Spaghetti Junction instead of moving it southward would require a review under the National Environmental Policy Act. The review, called a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, could take less than two years to complete.(18)
In addition, the Louisville Extreme Park, a skateboarding and BMX facility located within the Spaghetti Junction, could be relocated, at least during the interim of construction.(20)
The Authority hopes to begin construction by August 2012.(17)(18)
- Designation: Interstate 265
- Crosses: Ohio River
- Bridge type: Cable-stayed suspension
- Main span length: 1,200 ft.
- Total length: 2,100 ft.
- Height: 229 ft.
- Width: 155 ft.
- Number of lanes: 6 lanes
- Cost: $378 million
- Shafer, Sheldon S. “Bridge options unveiled.” Courier-Journal (Louisville) July 19, 2006. April 26, 2007 Article.
- “Bridge Type Selection.” The Ohio River Bridges. April 26, 2007 Article.
- Brake, Alan G. “One Bridge, Two Bridge, Old Bridge, New Bridge.” Louisville Magazine, March 2007. April 26, 2007. p. 47.
- Drake, Bob. “Ohio River Bridges Project moves into design phase.” GoBridges.com, February 22, 2007. April 27, 2007 Article.
- “Bridge types selected on Ohio River Bridges Project.” The Ohio River Bridges, December 12, 2006. April 26, 2007 Article.
- Green, Marcus. “Build bridges soon, mayor says.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), January 19, 2007. April 26, 2007.
- “Transportation issues in Louisville, from bikes to bridges.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), March 19, 2007. April 26, 2007.
- Thomas, Larry. “Group hopes to ’86′ I-64 in downtown Louisville.” News and Tribune, August 09, 2006. April 26, 2007, Article.
- Green, Marcus. “Bridge designs in; public’s vote out.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), December 13, 2006. April 26, 2007.
- Shafer, Sheldon S. “3 final options for bridge designs unveiled.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), July 20, 2006. April 26, 2007.
- Green, Marcus. “Relief on way for U.S. 42-Snyder intersection.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), April 26, 2006. April 26, 2007.
- James, Carroll. “$58 million set aside for bridges over Ohio.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), July 30, 2005. April 27, 2007.
- Davis, Alex. “Indiana buys land for bridges project.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), June 12, 2005. April 27, 2007.
- Green, Marcus. “Workers to begin tunnel for new bridge.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), June 5, 2007. June 12, 2007.
- Green, Marcus. “Great Lawn overpass disputed.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), May 15, 2007. June 13, 2007.
- Green, Marcus. “Price tag for bridges: $4.1 billion.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), 2 Oct. 2007. 3 Oct. 2007.
- Green, Marcus. “Bridges plan changes hatched at December meeting in Indianapolis.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 17 Jan. 2011. 2 Feb. 2011.
- Green, Marcus. “Revamped Ohio River bridges plan could face new review.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 18 Jan. 2011. 4 Feb. 2011.
- Hershberg, Ben Zion. “Eastern Bridge | Reducing lanes is mistake, critics say.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 4 Jan. 2011. 4 Feb. 2011.
- Shafer, Sheldon S. “Spaghetti Junction | Parks chief sees need to relocate Extreme Park.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 4 Jan. 2011. 5 Feb. 2011.
- Green, Marcus. “Bridges authority endorses toll-based financial report.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 16 Dec. 2010. 7 Feb. 2011.
- Klepal, Dan. “Metro council passes non-binding resolution opposing tolls on existing bridges.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 23 Sept. 2010. 8 Feb. 2011.
- Marcus, Green. “Tolls would fund more than half of Ohio River Bridges cost.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 16 July 2010. 8 Feb. 2011.
- Marcus, Green. “Ohio River Bridges Project shouldn’t protect historic Drumanard home, group says.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 17 June 2010. 8 Feb. 2011.
- Marcus, Green. “City may pave way on electronic tolling with cashless system.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 6 June 2010. 8 Feb. 2011.
- Marcus, Green. “Anti-toll groups form in Louisville.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 24 March 2010. 8 Feb. 2011.
- Marcus, Green. “Diamond interchange planned for So. Indiana project.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 19 Jan. 2010. 8 Feb. 2011.
- Marcus, Green. “State to delay bond sales for bridges project.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 8 May 2009. 8 Feb. 2011.
- “Louisville bridge plans move ahead.” Associated Press 18 Dec. 2009. 8 Feb. 2011.
- Marcus, Green. “Lack of Ohio River bridges funding plan may threaten area projects.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 19 Jan. 2010. 8 Feb. 2011.