NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) - Driving to and from Kentucky and Indiana will soon get harder.
A $90-million plan to improve the Sherman Minton Bridge, connecting New Albany to Louisville, will begin in 2021, bringing with it years of lane closures and possibly the closure of the bridge during construction.
A possible bridge closure is inconvenient for the thousands of drivers using it daily, but isn’t unheard of. The Sherman Minton closed for five months in 2011 for needed repairs. The closure created big delays and changes in traffic, but did provide a boost to some small businesses.
“When it happened a few years ago, it was rough on a lot of people,” Stefanie Griffith, co-owner Strandz Salon and Threadz Boutique in New Albany, said.
Closing the main artery connecting New Albany and Louisville years ago, meant traffic delays for thousands of commuters. But the traffic brought with it a bump for businesses like Griffith’s.
"It helped quite a bit because the majority of traffic was diverted right in front of our business. So we had a standstill audience on a daily basis out there which was great," Griffith said.
Like years earlier, plans to improve the Sherman Minton bridge in 2021 could create more traffic problems right through New Albany, although this time it won’t be for a few months, but for two to three years.
A project team is working to determine if they want to close down some of the lanes on the bridge, which would take longer and cost more money, or if they want to close down the Sherman Minton entirely, leaving 90,000 drivers looking to find a new way to get across the Ohio.
"In some cases, I think people will see a bonus because they won't have the option to go to Louisville as easily. And some businesses that have up to 70 percent of their business come from Louisville, it's going to be tough," said Robb Dunn, President of Develop New Albany. "But if we can communicate with them early on and they can prepare as a business and we can market to the local communities and keep things local, then I think we'll be able to be able to navigate this and come out strong."
Dunn said many people in the area are concerned but this time, they'll have years to put together a plan that will protect businesses and help commuters.
"We also have the benefit of having this happen before. So we know what that looked like before. I think New Albany's in a stronger position today than it was when that happened, we have a lot more going on in the downtown area and a lot more reasons for people to want to be downtown," Dunn said.
"It gives us time to campaign and really let people know that hey, we're here, we're not going anywhere. Reroute your day and just stop by and see us," Griffith said.
A plan for the construction timeline is expected to be announced in the fall of 2019. Repairs to the bridge would begin in 2021 and take an estimated two to three years to complete.
Anyone with questions or who wants to weigh on the Sherman Minton project can come to the two open houses being held about the project. The first will be held October 2 from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. at Scribner Middle School in New Albany or on October 4 from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. at the Chestnut Street Family YMCA in Louisville.