The price tag for the Ohio River Bridges Project has dropped by $300 million—to $2.3 billion, down from $2.6 billion—primarily because of the efficiencies in design and construction realized in the contracts for the Downtown and East End crossings.
The newly calculated estimate is contained in a 2013 Financial Plan Annual Update submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).
The estimate is expressed in “year of expenditure” dollars, exclusive of financing and interest costs.
Kentucky and Indiana jointly are building the project to dramatically improve cross-river mobility between Louisville and southern Indiana. The project has two parts:
- Downtown Crossing: Includes construction of a new bridge for northbound I-65, renovation and reconfiguration of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge to carry southbound I-65 and rebuilding of downtown interchanges in Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind. KYTC is in charge; and
- East End Crossing: Comprises a new bridge and approaches, 8 miles upriver, to connect the Gene Snyder Freeway in Kentucky with the Lee Hamilton Highway in southern Indiana. Indiana is responsible for securing design, financing and construction.
FHWA requires annual updates of the project’s financial plan. The new report reflects schedules, cost estimates and expenditure data during the reporting period, state fiscal year 2013. Reduced cost figures reflect inflation savings from earlier-than-expected completion and differences between internal, prebid estimates and actual bid prices.
The two states’ 2012 Financial Plan envisioned completion of the project by the end of June 2018. But that was before selection of the construction teams, whose schedules were more aggressive. Walsh Construction Co., lead contractor for the Downtown Crossing, proposed substantial completion by December 2016—nearly 19 months ahead of schedule. WVB East End Partners, builder of the East End Crossing, proposed substantial completion by October 2016—nearly eight months ahead of schedule.
Since the end of the reporting period on June 30, 2013, Kentucky completed financing of the Downtown Crossing, including a low-cost FHWA loan of up to $452.2 million through the Transportation Infrastructure Innovation and Financing Act. The loan will be reflected in a future update.
The updated plan attributes the lower cost estimate to several factors, including:
- Accelerated completion of the Downtown Crossing, resulting in a cost savings of approximately $90 million, compared with initial cost estimates;
- Design changes and accelerated completion of the East End Crossing, resulting in a savings of approximately $228 million, with the largest savings—about $209 million—coming from design changes that reduced the length of a tunnel in the Kentucky approach—the Drumanard Tunnel—to 1,800 ft from 2,000 ft; and
- The alternative delivery methods selected by the states, which have had a strong impact on reducing project costs and enhancing the overall project finance strategy.
Once the project is completed in 2016, tolls will be charged for use of the two new bridges and the renovated Kennedy Memorial Bridge. An all-electronic toll system will be used, meaning no toll plazas, no slowing of traffic and no waiting in line. Initial base toll rates were adopted Sept. 11 by a joint Tolling Body composed of officials of both Kentucky and Indiana.