I’m told that over the past 40-some years, many area residents came to believe that construction of another bridge connecting Louisville and Southern Indiana probably would never happen. Yet, by January 2016 â€“ less than three months from now â€“ vehicles will begin crossing the Ohio River on the brand new downtown bridge.
Actual construction of the new bridge and the I-65, I-64 and I-71 approaches to it from Kentucky and Indiana â€“ from drilling deep into the bedrock below the river to connecting cable-stays at the top of the tallest tower 280 feet above the surface â€“ has taken about two and a half years so far. Thatâ€™s extremely fast for a project of this magnitude.
Significant Traffic ReliefÂ Coming Soon
When the new bridge opens to two-way traffic this winter, the majority of work on surface streets along the I-65 corridor in Louisville will be complete. Main, Market, Jefferson, Liberty, Floyd, and Jackson will reopen all lanes, eliminating construction-related congestion on those streets. Most of the remaining work on Louisville surface streets inside the project footprint will be along Witherspoon Street, River Road, Frankfort Avenue and Hancock Street.
The ramp from I-64 East to I-65 South, closed since July 2013, will reopen to traffic late this year. (At the same time, however, the ramp from I-64 East to I-65 North will close and remain closed until late 2016.)
In Indiana, the old lanes of I-65 South from Brownâ€™s Station Way to the Kennedy Bridge are being demolished, with new lanes to be built during the remainder of this year and in 2016. The ramp from US 31 South to Court Avenue â€“ providing direct access to the Clark Memorial Bridge â€“ opens in late September.
In addition, the new flyover ramp from US 31 North to I-65 North is scheduled to open late this year, allowing drivers crossing the Clark Memorial Bridge direct access to I-65 North, rather than having to weave through Jeffersonville.
Whatâ€™s Left To Do?
Approximately 14 more months worth of work remain on the overall $1.3 billion downtown crossing project, including $22 million in improvements to the existing Kennedy Bridge, which will enable this 52-year-old structure to continue serving the area for decades to come.
The Kennedy will have to close in order for this work to be done. Initially, when two-way I-65 traffic moves to the new bridge, all but one lane of the Kennedy Bridge will close. That lane will allow temporary access from the Kennedy to I-64 and I-71.
Full closure of the Kennedy is expected to follow about a month later, and last about six months.
One lane of the Kennedy Bridge is expected to reopen by August 2016, restoring access from I-65 South to I-64 East and I-71 North. Access to I-64 West is expected to soon follow. The remaining lanes of the Kennedy Bridge will be closed until late 2016.
Finished Project Also to Enhance Safety
The reconfiguration of Louisvilleâ€™s â€œspaghetti junctionâ€ included in the project will eliminate many of the cross-traffic weaves and risky merges that area drivers have dealt with for years.
When all construction is complete in December 2016, the I-65 cross-river roadway will increase from six lanes to 12, with six southbound lanes on the Kennedy Bridge and six northbound lanes on the new bridge.
It is a pleasure for Walsh to be living and working in your communities. Thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we finish our work on the downtown bridge project.
Since construction began in earnest in July 2013, the downtown crossing has employed more than 800 workers, a great number of whom are local.Â It includes the building of more than 60 overpasses and bridges and more than 60 retaining walls. Materials include nearly 540,000 feet of piling, more than 440,000 tons of asphalt, 50,000 cubic yards of concrete and 15.8 million pounds of steel. Depending on your point of view, itâ€™s a project 40 long years â€“ or just 30 short months â€“ in the making.
By STEVEN SCHAUER |Â Project Manager, Ohio River Bridges Project, Downtown Crossing