The Indiana Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet have announced their preferred route for an Interstate 69 Bridge spanning the Ohio River between Evansville and Henderson, Kentucky.
In a report released Friday, officials recommend Central Alternative 1. It is the easternmost of the three routes that were under consideration. It is also the cheapest with a projected cost of $1.5 billion.
The route would displace four homes and no businesses. The two other routes under consideration, West Alternative 1 and West Alternative 2, would have caused significant displacement of homes and businesses around a portion of U.S. Highway 41 in Kentucky known as the Henderson Strip.
Friday’s announcement comes with the publication of a draft environmental impact study. Federal environmental law requires this report for projects receiving federal funding.
The report analyzed the social, economic, and environmental effects of each route. Dan Prevost, the I-69 Ohio River Crossing Project Team’s environmental lead, says the preferred route is the least disruptive to the surrounding area, although it will have some impact.
"Anytime you construct a project of that type, you are going to impact something," he says. "There are resources such as floodways and floodplains, wetlands, streams, forested habitat."
The U.S. 41 Twin Bridges already stand near the site. The report suggests closing the southbound bridges and leaving the northbound one open to local traffic. Officials say the bridges have similar maintenance costs and recommend retaining the northbound bridge because it is more historically significant. It was built in 1932 with the construction of its southbound counterpart coming three decades later.
A possible toll on the remaining Twin Bridge is still under consideration. Transportation officials have previously announced that the new four-lane bridge will be tolled.
Toll amounts have not yet been decided. Officials say a bi-state group would determine the toll before construction begins. Tolling would be done electronically to prevent slow-down on one or both bridges. There may be programs to help low-income drivers afford the tolls, according to Prevost.
If the bridge receives federal funding officials expect, construction would start in late 2021. The bridge would open in 2025.
Public hearings are scheduled in Evansville and Henderson, and the public can submit comments until Feb. 8. Officials will finalize the environmental impact statement and announce their decision after the public comment period has ended.