LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A panel of Indiana and Kentucky residents charged with deciding how to pay for the $4.1 billion Ohio River bridges project has not met in the six months since its formation.
Leaders on both sides of the river are worried that the group’s lack of action could jeopardize other federally funded projects in the Louisville and southern Indiana region.
The 14-member panel is nowhere close to producing a financing plan for the project to build the two bridges, and a Dec. 18 meeting was postponed with no makeup date set, The Courier-Journal reported.
Local leaders say the bridges financing has a domino effect on local governments’ use of federal funding for long- and short-term regional projects.
“The expression that’s been used in our group is ‘held hostage,’ and that’s exactly the right expression,” Oldham County Judge-Executive Duane Murner said. “Our funds and funding are being held hostage to what I perceive to be inaction.”
The Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency, or KIPDA, did not renew a long-range transportation plan for the region when it expired in December because there was no clear source of money for the bridges.
The government has given the agency one year, or until December 2010, to fix the plan.
KIPDA planners say they need the bi-state authority to produce its financing strategy for the bridges project. If KIPDA doesn’t meet the December 2010 deadline, local governments could be forced to stop spending federal money already allocated to short-term projects, from roads to sidewalk repairs, said David Burton, a KIPDA transportation planner.
Without funding for the bridges, the federal government in December froze projects in five Kentucky and Indiana counties overseen by KIPDA. Officials can continue to spend money on existing projects, but they can’t make major changes or add or remove projects.
In Jeffersonville, Ind., a nearly two-mile reconstruction of Hamburg Pike could be jeopardized, said Jim Urban, the city’s planning director. Officials expect construction on the $7 million project could start by the end of the year.
“It would seriously impact our progress,” Urban said.
Despite the federal rules, Chad Carlton, a spokesman for Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, said he doubts local governments will be forced to stop spending on projects.
“It’s hard for us to believe that the federal government would shut down a community, a region that is working to overcome the obstacles that have been placed in front of it in part because of a lack of federal funding for transportation projects,” he said.