Busy construction season for Ohio River Bridges, lots of changes for drivers
Around 225,000 vehicles move through the interchange of I-65, I-64 and I-71 every day.
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Just think about how nice it will be in another few years when Kentuckiana drivers can use the newly finished bridges both in downtown Louisville and in the east end. Until then, there is a lot of construction to be done. If you think you're already used to it, watch out, because the first full season is really just about to start.
"We're going to see the busiest construction season that Louisville has seen since the interchange was originally built about 50 years ago," said Andy Barber, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's project manager for the Ohio River Bridges Project.
Below is what drivers in different areas can expect in 2014:
1) The Clark Memorial Bridge closes May 27 so crews can work on new approaches to the bridge, which is also known as the 2nd Street Bridge. The bridge is scheduled to reopen in July.
2) Once the Clark Memorial reopens, drivers crossing it will find the access from U.S. 31 onto I-65 Northbound will change. Drivers will have to use a detour that will take them down Court Avenue, up Spring Street and then onto I-65 via 10th street. This detour is expected to last until mid-2015.
3) The exit from I-65 northbound to 10th street will be temporarily reconfigured. Three new I-65 overpasses that the new downtown bridge eventually will utilize will be finished and open to traffic. When that happens, drivers who want to exit onto 10th Street from I-65 northbound will have to make that decision shortly after Exit 0. Max Rowland with Walsh Construction, the company that is building the bridge, said once the new bridge is open, there will be dedicated lanes coming off of it for both Exit 0 and the 10th Street exit.
4) Beginning in late June or early July, I-65 both northbound and southbound will be restricted to two lanes in each direction from the bridge until around Stansiford Avenue. Rowland said, "The northbound traffic will actually be shifted over and utilize some of the southbound lanes of interstate." Once that happens, construction crews can begin work on the former northbound lanes. The lane reductions are expected to last into 2015.
1) In May, sometime after the Kentucky Derby, crews will finish work that has been happening just west of the existing southbound lanes of I-65. Drivers will start using those lanes. "Later this summer, traffic will be shifted onto that new structure west of I-65 and (work) will then progress east and we'll do that until the project is complete," Barber said.
2) Around the same time, some traffic on the I-64/I-71 interchange will start using the roadway that crews have been working on just south of the current interchange. That will allow crews to start reconfiguring the old construction, "Which is just one of the phases that we have to go through to get Spaghetti Junction unraveled and straightened out by our new design," said Rowland.
In the Ohio River:
1) Concrete piers will begin rising above water level as more cranes arrive to help with this part of the bridge construction process.
2) Tower 5, which is the bridge pier that's closest to the Indiana side of the river but completely submerged in water, will rise to its full height of 230 feet by the end of 2014. Cables and other parts that most people think about as the actual bridge will start to go into place by the end of the year as well.
Rowland said work will continue throughout the busy spring season in Louisville, stopping only on Saturday, April 12, for Thunder Over Louisville and the first weekend in May for the Kentucky Derby. He said despite work stoppage during an unusually cold and snowy winter, the project is still ahead of the contractual schedule.
Around 225,000 vehicles move through the interchange of I-65, I-64 and I-71 every day. Barber said the goal is to continue to move those vehicles smoothly and safely.
He asks drivers to try to stay up to date on changes. "So people can check ahead before they go to work, before they leave the office, before they come downtown to see how their path will change," he said.
To view maps, photos and to learn more about the Ohio River Bridges Project, click here.