Project engineer says east end bridge is on the fast track

John Sacksteder
John Sacksteder
Sketch of the proposed east end bridge (Source: Bridges Authority)
Sketch of the proposed east end bridge (Source: Bridges Authority)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Almost three weeks into Shermageddon and the concern is mounting about what's being done to ease traffic congestion if the Sherman Minton Bridge will be closed for a long period of time. We investigated if that means the East End Bridge project is being accelerated.

John Sacksteder is the project manager of the Ohio River Bridges project. While he controls the plans, he doesn't control the purse.

"There's been some uncertainty of exactly how we're moving forward with the project and funding issues," said Sacksteder.

With one bridge down and two others working overtime, Sacksteder said the East End Bridge is on the fast track.

"I think there's become a greater identification in this particular situation that we need bridges," he said.

Only WAVE 3 has a look at the work underway. Dirt is turning along Transylvania Beach, but don't get excited yet. What goes up must come down when it comes to land and buildings in the way.

"We've made offers to 108 of 109 and of those we've acquired probably 3/4 of them," he said.

That means there are roughly 30 homes or property owners that are still clinging to their land where the East End Bridge is planned to be built.

But despite a pending lawsuit, two homes have already been torn down after they were destroyed from flooding. The other homes bought will be demolished once more funding comes. Leaders say a lawsuit by the group River Fields isn't standing in their way. Next summer, bids for the project will be accepted.

"We'd expect the construction to begin in late 2012 early 2013 and our projection is probably two to three years to do the construction of the east end," Sacksteder said.

A blueprint of sorts shows the roughly six mile project that includes the bridge and extending the freeway to finally connect Prospect, Kentucky and Utica, Indiana. In a way for Sacksteder, the project is personal.

"The project actually goes back to 1969," he said.

Sacksteder engineered the Gene Snyder Freeway, or the Jefferson Freeway as it was called in those days. It's a project he said has never been finished.

"I've had this my whole career and I'm trying to finish up my career on what I started," said Sacksteder.

There will be more public input meetings before the end of the year on the project to finish a mandated environmental impact survey. The last one was completed in 2003 and the new one could impact the project's cost and design. That's because buildings that may not have had historical signification then, may now, and that would impact the bridge project.

Also, to meet new criteria not in place in 2003, things like sound proofing walls may have to go up in some areas.

The dates for those public meetings have not been set yet.

The East End Bridge is expected to accommodate 60,000 vehicles a day. If nothing is done, officials are concerned about the stress put on the Kennedy Bridge which was built to handle 80,000 vehicles a day.  A 2010 study found 122,900 cars use that bridge daily. If no East End Bridge is built by 2030, that number is expected to grow to 155,000.

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