BRADENTON, Fla. — The Federal Highway Administration Friday approved a supplemental environmental impact statement that is a significant milestone toward starting construction on portions of the $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges Project later this year.
Jose Sepulveda, division administrator for the FHWA, signed the environmental statement for the project, which involves building two bridges connecting Indiana and Kentucky across the Ohio River. The two states are splitting the costs and conducting separate construction procurement processes.
“Approval of the new environmental document means we are very close to securing a revised Record of Decision, which is one of the last steps toward federal approval for this critical project,” said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock.
The Record of Decision is expected to be handed down in June. It will allow the two states to invest federal funds in their respective projects.
The Ohio River Bridges Project originally received federal approval in 2003 when it was estimated to cost $4.1 billion. The governors of both states approved revisions in construction plans to reduce the cost to $2.6 billion. The revisions required the supplemental federal review.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky General Assembly ended a five-day special session on Friday approving a bill implementing a $2.4 billion two-year transportation budget.
“This budget includes necessary funding for the Ohio River Bridges Project,” said Gov. Steve Beshear.
Approval of the budget and federal environmental-impact statement “reinforces that this long-overdue project is truly on the fast track, and construction on the two bridges will begin in months, not years,” he said.
The two states are moving forward quickly to get teams in place to build the project. Each will fund its $1.3 billion share from a combination of sources.
A design-build approach is being used by Kentucky, whose financing sources will include state and federal funds as well as toll-revenue bonds and grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds. A team will be selected in October to build a new downtown Louisville Interstate 65 bridge, overhaul the existing Kennedy Bridge, rebuild a downtown interchange and install new Interstate connections.
Indiana is using a public-private partnership to design, build, finance, operate and maintain its half of the project, which includes building a new bridge across the Ohio River connecting Kentucky 841/I-265 with State Road 265 at SR 62 in southeastern Clark County, Ind.
Indiana will finance its portion of the project with a combination of funds from the state as well as debt and equity secured by the concessionaire. The state will use an availability payment scheme funded with tolls.