The Lewis and Clark Bridge carries Interstate 265 over the Ohio River between Jefferson County, Kentucky and Clark County, Indiana.
Proposals to construct an eastern bypass and bridge over the Ohio River east of Louisville were often discussed for decades, and the lack of a regional bypass for along the Interstate 265 alignment left through travelers on inner-city interstates that became overwhelmed with traffic.
The first proposal for an eastern bridge over the Ohio River came on July 26, 2002, when the governors of Kentucky and Indiana announced plans for an eastern bypass of Louisville. It would connect the two disjointed Interstate 265 segments on the eastern and northern fringes of the metropolitan area. 1
Kentucky and Indiana initiated and funded the initial $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 for Interstates 64, 65 and 71 would be needed. The Federal Highway Administration came to the same conclusion in 2003. 7 8
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. 2
The Ohio River Bridges Project was formally announced as a partnership between the states of Kentucky and Indiana on July 26, 2012. 1 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. 1
In early 2005, the Bridge Type Selection Process began with the design teams presenting 15 10 renderings and plans. 6 9 Nearly 5,000 votes were cast from the Ohio River Bridges Project website alone since it had marketing from a SEO company online , the votes were on the preferred bridge selection and more than 600 votes were cast at open houses. 9 11 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, 10 for both the motorists and cyclists that would use the bridge and for those on land looking at the Ohio River.
The Executive Bridge Type Selection Committee, composed of 16 members from the two states, 9 had narrowed down the bridge types to three by July 19, 2006. 12 On December 12, 2006, 7 Design A-15 was chosen over the six alternatives presented for the East End Bridge. 6
Design A-15 was a cable-stayed suspension bridge with two 229-foot convex diamond towers and suspension cables that radiated down to the center of the span. 6 The center cable design maximized the the bridge’s “transparency” that was originally desired and reduced the span’s visual impact from land. It was also $15 million cheaper than the other alternatives 9 and would require less maintenance in the long-term. The bridge would include six lanes for automobile traffic, a full right and left shoulders and a 17-foot-wide pedestrian and bike path.
Design work, along with discussions regarding “lighting, colors and textures” was completed by 2008. 9
The Drumanard Tunnel, a component of the East End Bridge project, was proposed to pass underneath the historic Dumanard Estate via two six-lane tubes. 13
The Say No to Bridge Tolls group requested to the Kentucky Heritage Council on June 16 that the historic Drumanard estate be de-listed from the National Register of Historic Places in a bid to lower the cost of the entire project by eliminating the tunnel under the Drumanard estate. 14 The anti-toll group noted that the estate was “not architecturally or historically significant” and that it included a wooded area that did “not have met the criteria for listing.”
The property was listed on the register in 1983. 14 The register boundaries were expanded in 1992 and included landscaping designed by the firm Frederick Law Olmsted, but that it was completed 26 years after Olmstead’s death. The Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C. noted that the landscaping was designed by Olmstead’s son, and that any de-listing would “get the ball rolling” on other de-listing proposals for the sake that they are in the wrong location. The de-listing proposal did not move forward.
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. 15 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. 16 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. 17
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. 16 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. 16
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. 4
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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 21 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. 22 The other half of the cost would come from conventional funding, such as fuel taxes.21 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. 18 Ten local governments in Kentucky and southern Indiana, including the Louisville Metro Council, opposed the tolling. 23 24
Tolls would be collected via an open-road, high-speed tolling system with no physical tollbooths. 25 The electronic transponder would be linked to a debit or credit card. Initial toll rates would be set at $1 per crossing for passenger vehicles and up to $12 per crossing for semi-trucks. 26 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. 19
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. 27 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. 27 28
In November 2013, Kentucky approved the sale of $753 million in bonds to finance the Ohio River Bridges Project. 29 30 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. 30 The bonds, which were scheduled to be sold on December 20. 29 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. 29 31 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. 3 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: 2
- 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
The East End Bridge required the removal of 123 residences and 80 businesses, consuming 382 acres. 32
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. 32
Construction began on a reconstructed partial US 42 interchange in Louisville in May 2006. 13 Construction began in mid-2007 on a 12-foot by 12-foot test bore for the tunnel under the Drumanard Estate to evaluate the strength of the rock. 33
The construction of the East End Bridge entailed the completion of:
- 8.5 miles of Interstate 265
- A 1,700-foot tunnel for Interstate 265 under US 42 and the historic Drumanard Estate in Kentucky
- A redesigned partial interchange at US 42 for Interstate 265 northbound traffic
- A full interchange at Old Salem Road in Indiana
- The reconstruction of the IN 62 interchange in Indiana
- A multi-use path along the East End Bridge
Construction of the East End Bridges, its approaches and the Drumanard Estate tunnel began in the spring of 2013. 5 It followed the Indiana Finance Authority’s selection of WVB East End Partners to design, finance, build, operate and maintain the East End Crossing.
Groundbreaking for the East End Bridge was held on May 29, 2013. 34 Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and officials from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Indiana Department of Transportation attended the ceremony in southern Indiana.
The East End Bridge project was overseen by the Indiana Department of Transportation, and the new crossing opened to traffic in December 2016. 5