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Jefferson County bridge gets lukewarm support

Harrison County officials have pledged their support to 25th District Councilman Doug Hawkins’ proposal to form a bridge commission to study the feasibility and impact a toll bridge would have across the Ohio River from southwest Jefferson County, Ky., to Harrison County’s eastern border.
‘We are not in a position to play a large role in the development of this project,’ the three commissioners said in a letter to Hawkins signed Monday night at the regular commissioners meeting. ‘We are currently in various stages of development on several large projects that are included in our long- range transportation plan.’
The commissioners reiterated that Indiana Dept. of Transportation should be the contact, because such a bridge would likely have to connect to a state road on this side of the river.
‘We see many benefits this project could bring to our county,’ Eckart and commissioners James Goldman and Jim Heitkemper said. ‘We also acknowledge that this project could present challenges to us in how we guide the growth and development that construction of this project would almost certainly bring.
‘We support your efforts to form a bridge commission to study the feasibility of the project and the impacts this project would have on both our communities. We plan to follow your project closely and ask that you continue to update us regularly as you proceed in your efforts to form the commission …’
Hawkins said earlier that such a bridge would open both sides of the river to economic development. The bridge would cost an estimated $45 million to $50 million and be paid for with tolls. Building without federal funds would skim years off the length of the project, Hawkins said.
The metro council, on which Hawkins represents the 25th District in southwest Jefferson County, is expected to meet again on the proposal on Sept. 6 in Louisville. The commissioners have asked the county engineer to attend those sessions to keep informed and to advise the commissioners.
Indiana officials have also been invited, including State Rep. Paul Robertson and State Sen. Richard Young.
Young was in Taiwan on state business this week; Robertson said he does plan to attend the Sept. 6 meeting.
‘I would say the stage of the project right now is in its infancy, but it does have to start somewhere,’ Robertson said yesterday. Hawkins’ 25th District ‘evidently has been talking about it for some time to try to open up that end of the county.’
Robertson said considering how long it has taken to get approval for an East End bridge to Kentucky, with construction still years away, it’s difficult to get too excited over the latest proposal this soon.
‘It’s an intriguing idea to put a bridge into Harrison County,’ he said. ‘It definitely would help to open up that area a lot.’
But a bridge is a major project that moves slower than some people would think, he said, but if the bridge were paid for with tolls, it would cut down significantly on that time.
Much would remain to be worked out between the states, Robertson said. ‘I remember in the 1980s when we put through a study for the East End bridge,’ he said. ‘The biggest problem there was the fact that Kentucky did not want it where it needed to go.’
He added: ‘Now, instead of one, we will have two: a downtown bridge and an East End bridge.’