Indiana bridge tender kicks off March 9

The Indiana Finance Authority is publishing a request for qualifications for a private partner to handle its half of the $2.6bn Ohio River Bridges Project. The toll road concession will be structured using the availability payment model.

The Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) is releasing a request for qualifications (RFQ) to find a private partner to help it deliver its half of the so-called Ohio Rivers Bridges Project.

The RFQ will be published on Friday, March 9, according to the IFA. The project, a bridge across the Ohio River to link Louisville, Kentucky, and Southern Indiana, is a bi-state collaboration operated under the aegis of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority.

The cost of the project was first quoted at $4.1 billion, but later scaled down to $2.9 billion and again adjusted to the current $2.6 billion.

While Indiana has opted for a public-private partnership (PPP), with a competitive bidding process to find a consortium to complete its side of the bridge, Kentucky in February moved forward with a public, design-build approach to handle its half of the project.

The IFA said responses to the RFQ will be due by the third week of April, with a subsequent request for proposals (RFP) expected in May and a winning contract announced by year-end. The RFQ, for a toll road concession, will use an availability payment structure, in which the private partner is paid periodically for making the infrastructure asset available in good condition.

The availability payment structure is a rare arrangement in North America. The recent $715 million Knik Arm Crossing project in Anchorage, Alaska used an availability payment structure, as did the $1.4 billion Presidio Parkway deal in San Francisco.

According to a recent memorandum of understanding (MOU), Kentucky has pledged $536 million in traditional funding for the bridge, while Indiana has put up $432 million.

The MOU called for a six-year window to complete construction of the bridge.

The long-gestating interstate bridge initiative was conceived to fix the high-traffic exchange called the “Spaghetti Junction,” or Kennedy Interchange, in Louisville, and provide an efficient cross-state route.

The Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority is a 14-member agency started in 2009 to explore financing and construction of the bridge, hailed as an infrastructure “mega-project”. In 2010, KPMG was named strategic adviser to the authority.