The East End Bridge spanning the Ohio River between Utica, Indiana and Prospect, Kentucky was first envisioned in the mid 1970s. The span was included in the “Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project” area improvements for I-64, I-65 and I-265. Reaching over 60% of initial estimates, the cost for two new Ohio River Bridges, and the reconstruction of “Spaghetti Junction” (Kennedy Interchange) joining I-64, I-65 and I-71 at Downtown Louisville, was estimated to be $3.9 billion in December 2006:3
- Interstate 265 Connector/East End Bridge – $1.29 billion with completion in 2013.
- Interstate 65 Downtown Louisville Bridge Replacement – $868.4 million with completion in 2019.
- Interstate 64, I-65 and I-71: Reconstruct the “Spaghetti Junction” interchange – $1.74 billion with completion in 2024.
Design of the overall Ohio River Bridges Project was scheduled for completion by mid-2014. Design and right of way work for the East End Bridge commenced in 2005 and 2006 respectively.2
The East End Bridge was a controversial project, but its importance was stressed during the September 9, 2011 to February 17, 2012 emergency shutdown of the Sherman Minton Bridge. Spanning the Ohio River as part of I-64, the Sherman Minton Bridge closed due to steel support beam damage discovered during routine inspections.
The March 2012 Cost and Schedule from Financial Plan Update revised the Ohio River Bridges Project time table and cost to $2.583 billion overall:2
- I-265 Connector/East End Bridge – $1.276 billion with completion in 2017.
- I-65 Downtown Louisville Bridge Replacement – $1.307 billion (including the Kennedy Interchange and approaches) with completion in 2018.
- I-64, I-65 and I-71: Reconstruct Kennedy Interchange – $659.8 million with completion by 2024.
The new freeway approaches to the East End Bridge, including a tunnel on the Kentucky side of the river, represented the bulk of costs.3 Funding issues for the overall project prompted officials to propose tolls for the existing Kennedy Bridge, the new parallel span (Abraham Lincoln Bridge) to it, and the East End Bridge. The U.S. government granted both Kentucky and Indiana approval for the implementation of tolls by August 1, 2012. Proposed rates were $2 for passenger vehicles, $1 for frequent commuters, and $10 for tractor trailers, all collected electronically.4
Tolls adopted on September 11, 2013 by a joint Tolling Body from both states revised the proposed rates to $4 for passenger vehicles and $12 for trucks. The group also adopted a measure that called for an increase in tolls at a rate of 2.5 percent annually or an increase based upon the national inflation rate, whichever is greater.5
Cost savings made in the 2013 Financial Plan Annual Updated submitted by the FHWA, KYTC and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), accelerated the time table for work on all three elements of The Ohio River Bridges Project. Overall costs were lowered to $2.34 billion, due to efficiencies in design and construction and inflation savings. Additionally the lead contractor for the Downtown Crossing advanced the proposed completion date by 19 months to December 2016. Similarly the East End Bridge contractor forwarded the completion to October 2016, eight months ahead of schedule. Savings were derived on both projects:5
- Accelerated completion of the Downtown Crossing saved approximately $90 million.
- Design changes and accelerated completion of the East End cut $228 million, including $209 million in design changes for reducing the Drumanard Tunnel by 200 feet in length.