EVANSVILLE and HENDERSON, Ky. - A spokesperson for the I-69 Ohio River Crossing project says work continues to gather detailed information to create the best option for a new bridge connecting Indiana and Kentucky. The project team began work early this year and Mindy Peterson says hundreds of people have attended open houses and submitted comments, which has assisted the effort. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Peterson said the project team is currently working on a federally-required Draft Environmental Impact Statement and plans to hold open houses in early 2018 with detailed alternatives for the project.

Peterson says open houses, which are expected to take place in February, will have information that the public has been very eager to hear, such as expected costs and possible funding options.

"We'll have more information on what would happen with the existing U.S. 41 bridges (and) traffic modeling. We'll have more information on right-of-way," said Peterson. "This is the time when a business owner or a homeowner could come to a project team member, sit down with us at the open house, tell us what their address is and we would be able to tell them would that proposed alternative impact your property at this time. Now that's preliminary. Everything could change, but we haven't been able to do that thus far."

In July, the project team released the short list of potential corridors for the Ohio River Crossing bridge connecting Evansville and Henderson, Kentucky. Those corridors are being further evaluated in the DEIS. The $860 million "Central Corridor 1" route was recommended by BridgeLink, a group of stakeholders that includes the mayors of both cities.

Peterson says the project team expects to identify a preferred alternative by next fall. That will be followed by public hearings on both sides of the river. The Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision are expected to be released in the fall of 2019.

"After we have that Record of Decision, which is very important, with the help of available federal funds, that's when you can move forward with construction and determining timeline and where we're headed," said Peterson. "When we look at funding and costs, we have to make assumptions for construction and what we can see, but after we have the Record of Decision, that's when the state's will be able to see where does this fall on our list, what money is available federally, how do the other pieces come together for funding, and when can we actually talk about moving forward with construction on this bridge."

The I-69 Ohio River Crossing project was first announced in July 2016 by then-Governor Mike Pence and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. At the time, Pence said the new bridge would be an "artery of growth" for both states.

You can read more on the project's progress in the graphic below: