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Bridges Authority Committee Working To Speed Up Project

The Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridge's Authority's finance and construction committee met Thursday to work on a financing plan for the Ohio River Bridges Project. The committee is looking for ways to make the estimated 4.1 billion dollar project less expensive.To cut costs, the authority will not change what it builds, but how it builds it.Co-chair Kerry Stemler says dropping either the east end or downtown bridge, or the reworking of Spaghetti Junction from the project isn't an option. Instead, the body will try to figure out how to build the project faster. Stemler says for every month shaved off the construction time, the authority will save ten million dollars."How do we make it quicker, how do we get jobs created for this community, how do we get concrete and steel moving, dirt flying?" he says. "We'd all like to see a little yellow construction equipment out there making things move."While nothing has been decided, the committee did discuss alternative construction plans, including designing the project as it's built. That strategy was used to build the Milton-Madison bridge east of Louisville.The authority must release an updated outline for how the project will be funded by the end of the year. But Stemler says a more detailed plan will take more time."This process will go well into 2011," he says. "These finance and construction committee meetings will go into 2011. We will continue our work. Obviously it's a very large project and very complex. So the answers…we don't have them all today."The financing plan will include a combination of federal and state funding and tolls. Sellersburg, Indiana recently joined councils in other Hoosier cities and Louisville in passing a resolution opposing the use of what they term excessive tolls to finance the Ohio River Bridges Project. Stemler says he understands why the resolutions were passed, but it's not yet clear how much tolls will need to be to build the bridges."Any elected official needs to do what they think is necessary for their community," he says. "I do believe it's premature; there's no plan on the table that we've laid out and said 'Here's where we're going to be.' I don't think it sends the right message to our partners in both states and the federal government."