Fischer says 2012 could be last best chance to advance Ohio River Bridges project

12/12/2011 04:08 PM

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says it’s time to go all in during the 2012 legislative session for full funding needed for the Ohio River Bridges Project to proceed.

One of the factors pushing the urgency of the project is the departure from office of one of the project’s key proponents from Indiana, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, said Fischer, a Democrat.

The project includes two new bridges across the Ohio River, one in the eastern part of Louisville and a second bridge downtown. It also includes a re-design of where three interstate highways intersect in downtown Louisville.

In an interview with Pure Politics, Fischer said he is telling city and legislative leaders that funding for the project shouldn’t wait any longer.

The bridges project will cost more than $2.5 billion.

Full funding from Frankfort will be a tall order considering other road and bridge projects will compete for the share of the road fund, which is expected to have more than $1.3 billion a year in it, mostly from fuel taxes.

Fischer said he hoped that rural and urban legislators realized that as a major exporter of tax revenue, helping build the bridges would benefit both the city and the state.

Federal funds also will be needed.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, the Republican House Appropriations chairman from Somerset, said the latest GOP proposal is to increase funding for the federal six-year road plan by using revenue from off-shore oil drilling.

Parts of the bridges project have been discussed for more than 40 years and there’s been a general lack of urgency for the project over the years.

But the rush to fund and build now is coming because one of the major backers behind the project, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, will be leaving office at the end of 2012.

And with his replacement unknown, Fischer said it’s important to start the project in the fall of 2012 as scheduled.

-Reporting by Kenny Colston. Video production by Nick Storm and Kenny Colston

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