A Tale of Two Bridges (A Tale of Bi-State Cooperation)

On November 16, 2012, the Indiana Finance Authority (“IFA”) selected WVB East End Partners (“WVB”) as the “Preferred Proposer” for IFA’s East End Crossing project in southern Indiana.  WVB East End Partners is a joint venture consortium of Walsh Investors, LLC, VINCI Concessions S.A.S. and Bilfinger Berger PI International Holding GmbH, partnering with Walsh Construction Company and VINCI Construction Grand Projets as the builders, with Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. as the designer, and with others.  VINCI Concessions S.A.S. will be performing the operations and maintenance of the East End Crossing for the thirty-five year term.

The East End Crossing is one component of a larger, bi-state project that has been in the planning and development stage for almost ten years.  The Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project (or “ORB”) spans the Ohio River in two places, and Indiana and its neighbor to the south, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, split the project in half.  Thus, the ORB is a tale of two bridges, each state responsible for one, but working cooperatively to achieve completion of both.

“One Project; Two Procurements”

On March 5, 2012, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear met and decided on a “one project, two procurements” strategy.  Indiana was to handle the East End Crossing (a bridge, tunnel and associate roadway project eight miles east of the present Kennedy Bridge between Louisville and Southern Indiana).  Kentucky was to handle the Downtown Crossing (refurbishment of the Kennedy Bridge, addition of a second span, and associated roadway improvements).  Each would share 50/50 in the gross toll revenues generated by the two projects; toll revenues would be collected by a single toll systems operator for each project. 

What followed the March 5 memorandum of understanding was an historic bi-state development agreement that fleshed out how this understanding would turn into the ORB.  The “bi-state” mapped out parallel, separately handled procurements of each state’s part of the ORB and the involvement of each state in the other’s procurement.  The bi-state agreement also established an approach to ownership of the right of way for each project so as to enable each state to allow its contractor to perform work in the other state.

Kentucky elected a conventional design-build contract procurement, with the Commonwealth handling the financing of its project.  Indiana pursued an innovative availability payment public-private partnership, leaving the financing to the winning proposer.  Each state was offered the right to review and approve the technical plans and specifications for the portion of each project to be built and operated in that state.

Eight short months later, Kentucky held a public bid opening, selecting Walsh Construction Company as its apparent best value bidder.  Less than twenty-four hours later, Indiana, through IFA and in very close coordination with the Indiana Department of Transportation (“INDOT”), announced WVB as its preferred proposer and anticipated counterparty in a public-private partnership.  Walsh Construction Company is part of WVB, and through two, separated and distinct procurements, will be involved in the entire ORB.

The “one project, two states” approach aligned both states in a collective effort to address a growing need for additional cross-river transportation in the greater Louisville-Southern Indiana region, which is presently hampered by significant traffic congestion on the existing Kennedy Bridge and within its interchange and connecting roadways.  And now, one major infrastructure project will be the product of two innovative solutions.

About the ORB

The ORB is a construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation project to address demand for remedying inadequate and inefficient cross-river mobility for existing, planned and expected population growth in downtown Louisville and Southern Indiana counties. 

When completed, the ORB will improve connecting roadways and provide two new toll bridges across the Ohio River.  Kentucky’s Downtown Crossing will deliver the new “Downtown Bridge” –  carrying I-65, upstream on the Ohio River from the existing Kennedy Bridge.  The East End Crossing builds a new bridge connecting I-265/KY 841 (the “Gene Snyder Freeway”) with S.R. 265 (the “Lee Hamilton Highway”) in Indiana.  The ORB also features several multi-modal improvements to increase transportation choices for area residents, including enhanced bus service and pedestrian and bicycle trails and pathways.

Indiana and Kentucky plan to see both bridges open as early as late Fall, 2016.

John Smolen co-authored this entry.
 

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