BRADENTON, Fla. — The Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority is asking construction industry professionals and others to help it build the Ohio River Bridges Project faster and less expensively.
The long-proposed project calls for two new spans between northern Kentucky and southern Indiana. It would also reconfigure the downtown Louisville interchange known as “spaghetti junction” where Interstates 64, 65, and 71 converge.
Early price estimates put the cost of the project at $4.1 billion, though alternatives are being considered that would reduce it to $2.9 billion. The authority last week issued a request for information targeted at construction companies and developers.
The responses will be used to help plan and structure the procurement process for the project, officials said.
Earlier this year, the panel charged with developing a finance plan held an industry forum and found that the private sector is interested in the project.
The forum also demonstrated that additional cost savings can be found while also having an expedited construction schedule, said Kerry Stemler, chair of the authority’s finance and construction planning committee.
“We have consistently heard that market interest in our project continues to be very strong,” Stemler said. “The RFI provides another opportunity to receive information from the private sector that will help ensure we’re on a path toward a bankable structure that will be well-received in the marketplace.”
Responses are due by Sept. 30. Findings will be discussed at the authority’s Oct. 6 meeting.
Federal studies are in the process of being updated and construction is expected to begin in August 2012.
The bi-state authority was appointed last year to study various financing and construction options, including tax-exempt toll revenue bonds and public-private partnerships.
The Ohio River bridges project was designated a national transportation priority during the administration of former President George W. Bush partly because of its significance as a major north-south freight route.
With some federal and state funding over the years, the states hired consultants that have already completed portions of the six design elements that comprise the project.
Consultants are currently conducting investment-grade traffic and revenue studies that include variable tolling options on behalf of the authority, which has bonding powers.
The strategies under consideration by the agency include bidding out traditional construction contracts to using P3s to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the project.
Separately, questions have been raised in the last few weeks about funding the Ohio River Bridges Project since an existing bridge between Louisville and southern Indiana had to be shut down Sept. 9 after cracks were discovered in two steel support beams.
Inspectors are still evaluating the damage to the six-lane Sherman Minton Bridge to determine if repairs can be made or if the bridge must be replaced.
Since the shutdown of the bridge, which carries Interstate 64 across the Ohio River, more than 50,000 vehicles have been detoured each day.
Kentucky and Indiana are responsible for sharing the cost of bridge repairs.
Local, state and congressional officials toured the Sherman Minton this past weekend and indicated that funding for repairs should be available but it would be more difficult to fund a replacement structure.
In addition to the Sherman Minton Bridge problem, a federal lawsuit is pending against portions of the Ohio River Bridges Project.