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Contractor gets March deadline to fix closed Ohio River bridge

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Indiana on Tuesday awarded a $13.9 million contact to repair a closed Ohio River bridge linking southern Indiana and northern Kentucky to a Louisville-based company that promised to have the nearly 50-year-old span reopened by early March.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said Hall Contracting of Kentucky has committed to finishing the work to reinforce the Sherman Minton Bridge in 135 work days, with March 2 as the "target date" for completion. If it meets that goal, the double-decker bridge that links New Albany and Louisville will have been closed nearly six months by the time it reopens.

Hall Contacting, whose bid was the lowest among the four companies that bid on the project, also proposed the fastest time schedule for making the repairs, at 135 days. Its bid was $2.5 million less than the next highest bidder and has a 15-day shorter work completion time frame.

Daniels said the cost and time-frame for completion outlined in the four bids were considered along with the credibility, "the fitness and appropriateness" and other factors outlined in each of the bids.

The governor said he was "very pleasantly surprised" that the winning bid was well below the $20 million initial estimate for the repairs.

"But money was never the issue really to us. Safety was the first issue and speed of reopening the bridge the second issue," Daniels said. "What I'm really excited about is 135 days and the possibility of maybe beating that by a day or two or three."

Indiana and Kentucky will each pay about $5.2 million toward the project to add about 2.4 million pounds of new steel plating along both sides of the bridge ties that run horizontally along the upstream and downstream sides of the 1,600-foot bridge.

The federal government is expected to pay about $3.4 million, or a quarter of the costs, Daniels said.

The governor said the work will result in a much stronger bridge, adding at least 20 more years to the life of the span, which opened in 1962.

Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Michael Cline said the company is expected to receive full authorization to begin work Wednesday on reinforcing the bridge with the plating.

Indiana, which oversees the maintenance of the span, ordered the bridge closed Sept. 9 at Daniels' direction after a 2 1/2-inch-long crack was found in a steel support beam.

Inspectors later found more cracks in the bridge, which carries Interstate 64 across the river and had been used each day by about 80,000 cars. The closure has funneled traffic onto the area's two other Ohio River bridges, creating longer rush-hour delays.

If the bridge reopens before the 135 work days outlined in its bid, Hall Contracting will receive a $100,000 financial reward for each day that it beats that deadline. That incentive is capped at $5 million, or 50 days, before the target reopening date.

The company would alternately face penalties of $100,000 per day for each day after the 135 work day time-frame the project is not completed, said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield. However, he said the company would not be penalized for delays caused by severe winter weather such as frigid or icy conditions that would make working on the bridge unsafe.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said he's pleased the winning contract's cost is significantly less than the original estimate and also happy that the work should be complete about six weeks earlier than had been expected.

"We are eager to see repair work begin and even more anxious to see the Sherman Minton Bridge reopened to the businesses and commuters who rely on it daily," Beshear said in a statement.

Wingfield said it's unclear how many jobs the project would create in the southern Indiana and Louisville area. A message seeking comment from Hall Contracting was not immediately returned Tuesday.

He said the three other companies making bids were American Bridge Co. of Coraopolis, Penn., which entered a $16.4 million, 195-day repair proposal; Walsh Construction Co. of Crown Point, Ind., which proposed an $17.2 million, 150-day offer; and F.H. Paschen/S.N. Nielsen & Associates, a Chicago firm that entered a $23.9 million, 240-day repair bid.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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