Indiana will save hundreds of millions on Ohio River bridge, could use money for other road work

Cash could help bail out embattled I-69 extension

INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Mitch Daniels said the state will save hundreds of millions of dollars on a new bridge over the Ohio River, and the money could help with efforts to finish the Interstate 69 extension. 

The state has awarded a contract to build the new bridge over the Ohio River east of Louisville.

The contract for the bridge went to a consortium called WVB East End Partners, which beat out three other firms for the job.

The cost is $763 million, down 23 percent from the earlier estimate of nearly a billion dollars.

INDOT credited the difference to competition among bidders, innovative construction plans and a speeded-up schedule to reduce the effects of inflation.

"Can I just roll the clock back?" asked Daniels. "Just two or three years ago, people were talking about a $4.1 billion project. That probably never would have happened."

Daniels said the reduced construction cost will probably reduce tolls for bridge users, but the savings could also be put into other projects. 

On Monday the governor will cut the ribbon on the first three sections of I-69 in southwest Indiana.

"Every time, and it's happening every time, that INDOT delivers a project, or competition in this case delivers a bid that is well under what we had set aside for it or estimated, that frees up dollars for something," replied Daniels.

But Daniels also acknowledged that money will still be tight to finish I-69 and that it's possible there might have to be a long construction hiatus. 

"The answer is to prioritize the completion with all the other needs of the state, and if it means it takes more years to do it, that might be a prudent answer," he said. "But I think the goal should still be to finish at some stage."

While the money saved on this bridge project could help I-69, the techniques learned there won't. 

Daniels said that that's a toll bridge, and he still believes that the promise should be kept that I-69 should not bear tolls.

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