JEFFERSONVILLE — Although the east-end bridge will open around October, one segment of the $30.4 million heavy haul road won’t be finished by then, as originally planned.
Will Wingfield, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the state’s portion of the road connecting Ind. 265 to the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville has yet to be designed, as environmental analysis of the land isn’t complete.
“At this point, the development of the project has taken longer than anticipated, so it’s likely not going to be in that timeframe but exactly [when], we’re still looking to determine,” Wingfield said.
Officials at the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville and River Ridge Commerce Center — both which will have direct access to the road — don’t seem troubled by the schedule change.
“The fact that the port will be connected to the east-end crossing is the big news,” Scott Stewart, port director for Jeffersonville’s port, stated in an email. “Businesses take a long-term view when they plan new investment or the expansion of current facilities. The transportation corridor already factors into the thinking of existing and potential port companies.”
In fact, Stewart said he doesn’t even view the change as a delay.
“The segment connecting the port to the [Ind. 265] interchange simply requires greater engineering and design than the segment at River Ridge,” he continued.
One businessman at the port said he’s counting on the road to grow the logistical edge of his company, Mill Steel Co.
“Not having it done loses the competitive advantage,” Rob Vella, vice president of operations at Mill Steel Co., said.
‘IT TAKES AS LONG AS IT TAKES’
Wingfield said the original “aggressive schedule” of Segment A of the road, extending 1.7 miles, slated completion “near” the opening date of the east-end bridge. But because federal funds are contributing to the project, federal law for environmental review must be followed, Wingfield said. This process is more complex than anticipated, he said, because the area “is rich in historical resources.”
“The earliest settlement of the area, both Native American and colonial, was along the Ohio River as a primary transportation route, he said.
Wingfield said any archaeological study in this area will result in discovering artifacts, with experts now analyzing artifacts that have been found.
“It’s one of those things that it takes as long as it takes,” Wingfield said.
Historical and environmental studies as well as a route recommendation will be completed and presented in public meeting this summer, Wingfield said. An updated timeline will be presented at that time.
After that process is finished, the state will design the road, purchase land and contract a company to begin construction.
A public meeting Thursday, Jan. 28, will update locals on the project. The event is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Utica Elementary School, 201 Maplehurst Drive in Jeffersonville. Team members will give a presentation at 7 p.m.
Until Segment A of the heavy-haul road is open, Wingfield said any heavy trucks en route to the Port can take Ind. 62 and Port Road.
“[The heavy-haul road] is additional infrastructure to plan for the additional growth planned and underway as a result of the new bridge,” he said.
The partnership between INDOT, Jeffersonville, the Ports of Indiana, Clark County and the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency has perhaps made the $20.4 Segment A million project timeline lengthier, Wingfield said.
“These are not projects that are entirely under our own control,” he said, adding they first had to get an interlocal agreement signed and funding secured. ” … So that’s a little different than the typical projects that we manage.”
Meanwhile, Segment B of the road, overseen by River Ridge Commerce Center, is on schedule to open by the end of the year, according to Executive Director Jerry Acy. Segment B runs through the commerce center, connecting Ind. 265 and Ind. 62. Wingfield pointed out that Section B is “locally funded and is being built on land that River Ridge already controlled.”
Acy said the first phase of River Ridge’s portion is under construction and the rest will become under contract for construction this spring.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to get it built, obviously,” he said.
The 2-mile stretch of road will connect to the existing Logistics Avenue, which hooks into Ind. 62. River Ridge is contributing $7 million to the road, with the remaining $3.5 million coming from other sources, Acy said.
Determining how the completion delay for Segment A would affect River Ridge would be speculative, Acy said, because “nobody knows for certain” what development will be coming in the next year.
“It may limit some short-term opportunities, but nobody knows for sure,” Acy said.
The important part is that the road will give access through River Ridge and opens up additional properties for development with that access, he said.
“I think everybody would prefer to see it happen sooner rather than later, but it’s very important that we do have it funded and it will be built in hopefully the next two years or so,” Acy said of Segment A.
Stewart said the heavy haul road is “very important” to the port’s competitive advantage and is just one piece of a larger transportation overhaul.
“When you consider the new bridge, the transportation corridor, and the $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve port rail and loading facilities, it’s hard to imagine a brighter future for the port,” he said.
Mill Steel Co., transports several truckloads of steel a day across the Ohio River.
“We’re counting on this portion to move forward, and anything I can do to help expedite it, I would,” Vella said.
Vella said it’s hard to predict how the delay will affect Mill Steel, though it certainly won’t cause the business to scale back its operations. But anything the business can do to compete would create more jobs and gain more market share, he said.
“At that end of the day, that’s what we’re talking about,” he said. “Logistical advantages is the environment we live in today. That’s how companies compete with each other.”