Ohio River Bridges Near Louisville To Cost Substantially More Than Projected

By Maureen Kyle

(LOUISVILLE) -- The project is still years away, but the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet estimates the cost of building two new bridges is going to be nearly 60 percent more than originally projected. That has both lawmakers and taxpayers wondering how to foot the bill. WAVE 3's Maureen Kyle investigates.

The federal money is there but the state money has yet to be raised. Before the new cost estimates were released, lawmakers complained the Ohio River Bridges project would drain highway transportation dollars. But many still want to go ahead with the plan, although some agencies are now questioning whether there are other options.

The new price tag on the two Ohio River bridges surprised many Kentucky agencies after the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet released a report updating projected costs.

The project that was originally supposed to cost just over $1 billion, but is now estimated at nearly $4 billion.

Leslie Barras with the group River Fields sees it as an opportunity for their cause to promote a downtown bridge as an alternative to the two bridges. "We actually see a silver lining in the report, because we think that what it shows is that it will be tremendously difficult for Kentucky to pull off two bridges."

Aside from the rising cost, Barras also points to studies and polls taken throughout the planning phase "which have shown that the eastern bridge doesn't solve the traffic need, that the current, immediate, real problem is downtown at Spaghetti Junction, and the only way to fix that is to go the interchange and tie it into a downtown bridge."

But other agencies like Greater Louisville Inc. aren't willing to give up. "The project is too necessary to talk about any options right now," said GLI President Joe Reagan.

The report essentially blames inflation for the big bump in price, so Reagan says the only way to stay ahead of the game is to stay ahead of inflation. "The way to cut costs on this project is to accelerate the project, get going faster than we ever imagined. And there is a way to do that by applying the right leadership and the right attention to moving forward together and getting these things done. We've got to do it."

The report also recommends building the bridges separately instead of at the same time. That would mean pushing back construction dates on the downtown bridge. A legislative meeting to discuss the Ohio River Bridges Project is set for December 14th.

Online Reporter: Maureen Kyle

Online Producer: Michael Dever