LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- The reality of the Ohio River Bridges Project is suddenly in focus with visible evidence of progress on both halves of the project and in bridges financing.
Images captured by Sky11 show the unmistakable path of the east end bridge approaches after two months of clear cutting carved the project into the landscape like a controlled tornado.
36 acres of trees and buildings have been cleared on the Kentucky side, 48 acres cleared in Indiana.
"We're about an acre away from being done on the Kentucky side," said Greg Prince of the Indiana Department of Transportation, "while tree clearing is pretty much completed on the Indiana side."
Indiana is responsible for the east end portion of the project. Kentucky is handling the downtown portion, where work crews on Tuesday completed two days of demolition of the century old four-story Baer Fabrics building on Market Street to make way for the widening of I-65 southbound lanes.
"It's tangible evidence I think to everybody in the Louisville area that this project is moving right along," said Chuck Wolfe, a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman.
The state paid more than $2 million for the Baer building and plans to move three other downtown buildings in the right of way.
Meanwhile, a consulting firm told the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority (KPTIA) on Tuesday that that it anticipates a study to conclude that the tolling rates originally forecast for the project are still on target.
All of the forecast rates are based on vehicles being equipped with a transponder which transmits a signal which debits the toll from an established account.
$1 “frequent user” with a transponder.
$2 cars/SUV (two-axle vehicle)
$5 “medium” truck
$10 “heavy” truck.
For vehicles without transponders, high-resolution video will capture images of a vehicle’s license plate to send bills to bridge users.
“It appears that we’re on track to meet our goal of fair and reasonable toll rates to help finance a major transportation improvement for the region,” said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock in a news release. Hancock is also chairman of the KPTIA board.
The most controversial portion of the $763 million east end half of the project is expected to begin in June, the $255 million tunnel under the Drumanard Estate just to the north of US 42.
Indiana -- which controls east end construction, even in Kentucky -- plans for the contractor to begin boring into the rock bluff where the Gene Snyder (I-265) ends now.
"They'll make a cut in the ground, start to do a little blasting and start to remove that debris as they make their way through the portal of that tunnel," Prince said.
The tunnel excavation may trigger temporary road closures and lane restrictions, Prince added.
Bridge pier construction is also expected to start this summer both for the east end bridge and downtown.
The downtown half of the project includes a northbound I-65 bridge and the reconfiguring of the interchanges on both sides of the river.
With three years of traffic delays to commence by summer, transportation officials have briefed city officials and emergency responders in Louisville, Jeffersonville and other surrounding communities.
"It's going to take patience on people's part," Wolfe said. "Our intention is to give people a wealth of information and just keep it coming."