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KY Governor Commits $118M

Sat February 28, 2004 - Midwest Edition

LOUISVILLE, KY (AP) Gov. Ernie Fletcher said the state will contribute $118 million toward the construction of two new bridges connecting Louisville with southern Indiana.

The funding would cover the next two years, enough to keep the $1.9-billion project on schedule for completion in 2017. The new bridges would be built in downtown Louisville and on its east end.

The money would come in part from the issuing of new bonds that would allow the state to borrow money and pay it back with future federal transportation revenue. Funds for the project also will come from state and federal gasoline taxes, which in Kentucky amount to 34.8 cents per gallon.

Fletcher announced the commitment Feb. 17 to approximately 1,700 people attending a banquet by Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce.

“This administration will make the bridges a reality,” Fletcher said, drawing a standing ovation.

Business leaders in Louisville and southern Indiana had intensely lobbied Fletcher to support the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Kevin Flanery, executive director of the Regional Leadership Coalition, said the pledge by the Fletcher administration “clearly shows they understand the importance of the bridges to the economy of the region and the positive impact on the rest of the state.”

According to a preliminary financing plan, Indiana would have to contribute $47.5 million for 2004 and 2005. Kentucky would contribute $98.6 million because its portion of the project includes renovating the section of north Louisville where interstates 64, 65 and 71 meet.

“If we can do this project in an expeditious manner, then we actually save money in the long run,” Fletcher said. “We want to make sure the money is there so nothing slows this project down.”

The bridges project is the most expensive in the Transportation Cabinet’s updated six-year plan for roads across Kentucky, Fletcher said. It was slated to be given to lawmakers in February and requires the General Assembly’s approval.

The $118 million would allow for the completion of the project’s design, followed by land acquisition and construction, project manager Richard Cary-Brown said. Fletcher wouldn’t say the bridges project might affect other projects in the six-year plan.

“It’s going to require us to shift some priorities,” he said. “But we are still going to have a vigorous road plan.”