CHICAGO — The Indiana Finance Authority has issued a request for qualifications from legal firms interested in serving as transaction counsel on the state’s portion of the $2.6 billion bi-state Ohio River Bridges project.

Interested firms have until noon Jan. 17 to respond to the RFQ.

The IFA issued the request last Friday in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority, the agency that likely will oversee the financing, construction and operation of the project.

The $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges project is one of the largest transportation undertakings in the United States. It calls for two new Ohio River spans between northern Kentucky and southern Indiana, and will also reconfigure a downtown Louisville, Ky., interchange.

The two states recently reached a tentative financing agreement that has each one responsible for about $1.3 billion of the total cost.

Indiana will build the east end of the project, which includes a new bridge, a new highway link and a tunnel in eastern Jefferson County.

The selected legal firm or firms — the state could select more than one — will work with the IFA as well as INDOT and the bi-state authority in the process of planning, structuring and executing the procurement process for the East End Crossing.

In addition to helping coordinate the project, transaction counsel will be expected to help craft legislation necessary to advancing the project, according to the RFQ.

The team will also be responsible for applications for various federal programs, including loans provided by the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, the private-activity bond program, tolling and pricing, special experimental project programs, and any other new federal transportation finance programs Congress may authorize.

The states opted to split financing costs because they have different views about contracting methods.

Indiana and Kentucky both plan to use a combination of state and federal transportation funds and tolls to pay for their end of the projects.

According to Indiana’s RFQ, the state is considering an availability-payment model.  Under that model the state agency makes fixed payments to the private partner regardless of revenue generated by  the  project.

But Indiana could still opt for the more traditional public financing method, the RFQ said.

A final financing plan for the project could come as early as the spring. The Federal Highway Administration still needs to sign off on it.

Construction is set to begin by the end of this year, with both spans set to be open by 2018.

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