HENDERSON, KY (WEHT) -Government leaders on both sides of the Ohio River are cautiously optimistic they are one step closer to building the I-69 bridge, but there are many steps left on the staircase.
Henderson County Judge-Executive Brad Schneider got word the commonwealth plans to make a big financial commitment to the project.
The I-69 bridge project has been in discussion for years.
Although city officials say the dedicated funding is a big deal, there is still a lot that needs to happen before construction for the new bridge can begin.
During a Western Kentucky Caucus hearing in Frankfort, Governor Andy Beshear announced a six-year state highway plan, that included funding for the I-69 Ohio River crossing.
The plan includes $267 million to develop the project and begin a portion of construction from the Henderson bypass to what will become the bridge.
“I think its really good that Governor Beshear just a few weeks in the office has named the Ohio River crossing one of his priority means of transportation,” says Mayor Lloyd Winnecke.
“We’re excited to see it but it’s only a first step as you might know. Now that road plan goes to the legislature and the house and senate of Kentucky get a chance to pick it apart. Argue for projects that may be not included take some projects out,” includes Schneider.
Although the announcement is creating excitement, Schneider says he still has concerns about the plan for the 1.5 billion dollar project.
“To pay for this bridge it would take a combination of things. Toll revenue, state funding, and federal funding. There’s not enough money I don’t think to cover everything that’s in the road plan,” says Schneider.
That is not the only issue local officials face before construction can begin another is which bridges should carry tolls.
“The original plan that the Ohio River crossing team a combination of INDOT and KYTC engineers proposed taking down one of the twin bridges and tolling the remaining one to help with toll revenue.”
However, officials have discovered most people want to keep both twin bridges open and toll-free.
That has forced transportation engineers to go back to the drawing board and figure out how they can pay for this project with a reduced toll revenue
“I think there’s momentum now where there once wasn’t six months ago and it’s great to really believe that we’re beginning the process of building it,” says Schneider.
Indiana has not yet committed to a specific dollar amount but Governor Eric Holcomb says finding money for the project would be his priority for 2020.
(This story was originally published on January 31, 2020)
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