MSD construction will close downtown intersection for nearly 2 years

The intersection of 7th Street, River Road and West Washington will close Monday, May 14. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
The intersection of 7th Street, River Road and West Washington will close Monday, May 14. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's a move that has to happen, but it's one many downtown drivers are dreading.

Road closures are nothing new in Louisville, but as a major Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) project is being constructed, some residents and workers downtown are bracing for the closure of River Road at 7th Street, that normally lessens their commute.

The intersection of 7th, River Road and West Washington shuts down Monday, May 14. It will stay closed for nearly two years -- until at least March of 2020.

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"We're trying not to think about it actually," laughed Ellen Yunker, who works for the nearby Fund for the Arts.

"Actually we use it coming in, in the morning," Yunker explained. "We park in the Ali Center garage, so we zip right down 7th Street and you can just slide in easily verses trying to take a left turn against 6th Street traffic."

It's work MSD has to do by order of the DOJ, EPA and Kentucky Division of Water, to combat a major problem during storms.

"Sanitary sewers and combined sewers in the downtown area would overflow to a local waterway," MSD Engineer and Project Manager Jacob Mathis explained.

Without being treated, sewage overflow was getting into the Ohio River and Beargrass Creek. That overflow will now head into a major project -- the Waterway Protection Tunnel.

At 7th and River Road, they'll build a massive d rop shaft -- 10 feet in diameter and 200 feet deep -- allowing sanitary sewer flow into the tunnel to be stored during heavy rains until it can be pumped back in for treatment.

"The Ohio River tunnel is about two and half miles long," Mathis said. "(It) starts at 13th Street near Rowan Street and heads east along the riverfront towards Butchertown."

Mathis said flow enters the tunnel at four different locations, traveling by gravity down to 13th Street where they're building a 50 million gallon per day pump station.

The intersection of 7th Street and River Road will be graded so heavy equipment can move in. It also serves as the access point for workers and their tunnel ventilation system, as air will be pumped in for them during construction.

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The closure of River Road will begin at 6th Street, where drivers will have to turn south.

Parking lots will stay open for museums, homes and businesses and drivers will be detoured to them.

"There's a lot of lane closures and stuff downtown all the time, so we'll just be here adjusting to that, like we do everything else," Yunker smiled.

The closure will extend to an area between 7th and 8th Streets, with access at Washington Street to get back into parking lots like the one that links to the Louisville Science Center.

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