Businesses face pinch of Kennedy Bridge, I-65 Big Squeeze - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Businesses face pinch of Kennedy Bridge, I-65 Big Squeeze

Traffic on Interstate 65 in southern Indiana on Aug. 29. (Source: Air 3, WAVE 3 News) Traffic on Interstate 65 in southern Indiana on Aug. 29. (Source: Air 3, WAVE 3 News)
Leslie Albro (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News) Leslie Albro (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News)
Andy Barber (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News) Andy Barber (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News)
Max Rowland (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News) Max Rowland (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News)
Cindy Knopp (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News) Cindy Knopp (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News)

JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) - September 2 will mark more than the end of a holiday weekend and the symbolic end of summer. It's the beginning of what could be the biggest squeeze yet in the Ohio River Bridges project. That's especially true if you're driving on Interstate 65 and use the Kennedy Bridge to get to or from southern Indiana.

The Kennedy handles more than half of the 225,000 cars and trucks who cross between Louisville and southern Indiana every day. What will be impact be for businesses along two exits who're about to lose a lane?

A Jeep on a pole has been the beacon and beckon off of Interstate 65 for Bales Motor Company for years.

"It's kind of if you had invited a bunch of your friends over for dinner," said Leslie Albro, the dealership's long-term partner.

But will the Big Squeeze mean you'll need a four-wheel drive vehicle to get there?

"We've just had to go around the back and bring 'em in from the rear instead of coming in the front," Albro said laughing.

Sewer work forced the reroute even before the Ohio River Bridges Project began. But come Sept. 2, and for the next two years?

"Southbound and northbound drivers for I-65 will have two lanes from Stansifer (Avenue) to Brown's Station Way," said Andy Barber, project director for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

"The southbound traffic will actually be split apart," said Max Rowland, communications manager for Walsh Construction.

The split, or fork, will be somewhat like I-65 southbound in Bullitt County between mile markers 118 and 112.

"The right lane will go on collector distributors," said Rowland, "and the left lane will stay on southbound traffic."

I-65 northbound traffic will cross over into what had been southbound lanes. That's so the old northbound lanes can be demolished and new lanes build for the northbound-only downtown bridge currently under construction.

“Northbound traffic actually will be going upstream,” Rowland explained.

“We hold the curtain as much as we have to,” said Cindy Knopp, manager at Derby Dinner Playhouse.

Knopp has grown used to plot twists. If anything, the Big Squeeze may be easier for theatre patrons than the recent Big Freeze-out, when the Clark Memorial (Second Street) Bridge was closed for repairs.

"We had different routes for them," Knopp said. "But if you're not from here, you don't really want to go off through the neighborhoods and take that route."

"Signage is being provided to some businesses where traffic is being changed," Barber explained.

Bales has such signs. Derby Dinner Playhouse will be getting them too. But Knopp knows that her patrons aren't facing the squeeze daily.

"We change shows every six weeks," said Knopp. "This something you're coming to enjoy and have fun with, you know. If it was work that'd be a different situation."

"We expect heavy congestion," Barber said, acknowledging that's an understatement.

Crews advise limiting travel to off-peak hours, taking the Sherman Minton Bridge in New Albany as an alternate route, or allowing for 10 to 20 minutes of extra time if driving during rush hours.

"The Kennedy handles more than half the daily traffic, and you're losing a third of your ability to handle traffic flow," Barber said. "Do the math."

Warning signs will be up as far north as I-265 the Lee Hamilton Highway) at mile marker six. That should give drivers enough time to cut over before traffic backs up.

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