The Ohio River Bridges-East End Crossing (ORB-EEC) project, a long-planned collaboration between the State of Indiana and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, recently earned the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) Envision Platinum sustainable infrastructure award. When finalized, the ORB-EEC project will address cross-river mobility challenges in the Louisville, Ky., Metropolitan Area, will improve safety and alleviate traffic congestion, and will integrate with existing highways while stimulating the economy of the Louisville-Southern Indiana region. The ORB-EEC is one of the highest-value transportation projects to achieve the highest Envision sustainable infrastructure rating — Platinum status.

The main firms involved in the ORB-EEC project include WVB East End Partners, the public-private partnership (P3) developer; Walsh-VINCI Construction, WVB East End Partners’ design-build contractor; and Parsons, the project’s general engineering consultant providing technical oversight services that assisted with the ORB-EEC P3 procurement. Substantial completion of the project was anticipated for late 2016.

“Strong teamwork and collaboration on sustainability aspects were in evidence throughout the project,” said Ron Heustis, project manager of the Indiana Department of Transportation. “The innovative partnership between Indiana and Kentucky ensured the project was designed to serve the needs of the entire region today, and for the future.”

The project team incorporated changes to the project based on stakeholder feedback, including incorporation of noise barriers and aesthetic enhancements such as decorative fencing, lighting, and pedestrian railings to preserve the historical elements of the area, and an overlook on the shared-use path.

Developing local skills and capabilities was a key priority for the State of Indiana and WVB East End Partners. Specific requirements were incorporated into the project’s technical provisions and Sustainability Management Plan to ensure local skills and capabilities were developed, and to ensure disadvantaged business enterprises had been provided opportunities to contribute to the project’s design and implementation.

“The project team worked closely with the community to assess local employment and training needs,” Rob Morphonios, project director for WVB East End Partners said. “We implemented an on-the-job training program to bring minorities, women, and disadvantaged persons from ‘apprentice status’ to a fully experienced employee. We also partnered with community-based organizations to implement training programs to elevate the skills of the workforce, not just for this project, but for future career opportunities in the construction industry.”

Morphonios said that sustainability has been a major consideration in all aspects of the project. “It’s a tribute to the entire team that we were able to come together, not just to accomplish this large-scale infrastructure project, but to do so using sustainable practices. The Envision Platinum award is a testament to that level of priority.”

The Envision framework and rating system recognizes sustainable infrastructure across the full range of environmental, social, and economic impacts throughout the project’s life cycle. Created in 2012 through a collaboration between ISI and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Envision focuses on the impact of an infrastructure project as a whole. The ORB-EEC project scored exceptionally well in the Quality of Life, Leadership, and Climate and Risk categories of Envision.

Notable achievements in sustainable infrastructure include:

Quality of life — In addition to improving cross-river mobility, this project is expected to yield substantial economic growth and development outcomes for the region. The anticipated outcomes include significant job creation — not just during construction, but also after project completion. More efficient traffic circulation in Jefferson County and a reduction in traffic congestion in downtown Louisville is expected to generate overall improvements to the business environment, including better access and increased productivity. Also, the project will expand the region’s capacity to handle anticipated population increases and more business and government services moving to the area.

The project team held a series of public information sessions and open houses to help familiarize the public with the project’s design. In addition, innovative health and safety measures were put in place to protect construction laborers and operators during construction.

Leadership — Since the project crosses state lines, the project team had to evaluate the differences in environmental laws and regulations as well as transportation agency policies on both sides of the Ohio River. Several potential barriers to achieving sustainable performance for the project were identified and mitigated, which are a testament to the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s commitment to sustainability and cooperation for the good of the entire region.

Also, throughout the project, hundreds of public meetings, workshops, and design sessions were held with a variety of stakeholder groups and organizations from both states that helped to shape and influence the project. The project team incorporated changes to the project based on stakeholder feedback, including incorporation of noise barriers and aesthetic enhancements such as decorative fencing, lighting, and pedestrian railings to preserve the historical elements of the area, and an overlook on the shared-use path.

Climate and risk — The project team reviewed regional climate change assessment and adaptation plans to identify climate change risks and possible responses. Frequency and intensity of heat waves and flooding were among the most significant climate change-related risks identified. As a result, the project team established many measures to guard against these risks, including a minimum vertical alignment for the corridor to account for a 100-year flood event for the retaining walls and highway bridges, and a 500-year flood event for the tunnel, roadway, and cable-stayed bridge.

In design of the project, the project team also took into account several natural and human-induced hazards such as fires, earthquakes, and accidents. Several strategies were included in the project design to safeguard against these hazards, including implementing a tunnel emergency response plan in cooperation with several local city and state agencies, and designing the project beyond regulatory requirements to be able to withstand potential earthquake events.

“We are pleased to present the ORB-EEC project with the Envision Platinum award,” said ISI President Bill Bertera. “This project demonstrates multiple-state cooperation and a commitment to sustainability on the part of the entire project team and the communities served.”

More information about the ORB-EEC project is available at

Information provided by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (