Clark Memorial Bridge closes for Thunder; drivers surprised

Clark Memorial Bridge closes for Thunder; drivers surprised
The Second Street Bridge will remain closed Thunder weekend. It reopens Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
Crews blocked off portions of the Clark Memorial Bridge on Thursday in preparation for Thunder Over Louisville. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Crews blocked off portions of the Clark Memorial Bridge on Thursday in preparation for Thunder Over Louisville. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville Metro Police have their traffic plan ready for Thunder Over Louisville on Saturday, but Thursday morning, a big Thunder traffic closure began as the Clark Memorial Bridge closed for three plus days. A lot of drivers forgot.

Some near collisions took place as people tried to turn around in the intersection on the Southern Indiana side of the bridge. Over the next few days, those drivers will have to find another route.

"When you have a fantastic show like Thunder, there's a lot of prep that has to happen," RiverLink Spokeswoman Mindy Peterson said.

The fireworks prep on the Clark Memorial, aka the Second Street Bridge, means the bridge will remain closed until Sunday.

"That affects a lot of people because that is a route that a lot of people rely on," Peterson said.

They do, and we found plenty of confused drivers slowing down Thursday, trying to figure out what was going on. Turnaround after turnaround. For many of them, it's a way to avoid tolls of the Kennedy and Lincoln Bridges. We had to remind drivers why the bridge was closed.

"Oh, that went through my mind, but it just escaped me that it was Thunder," one woman said from her car.

As Thunder crews and bridge painters moved the "road closed" signs so they could get on the bridge, some drivers tried to follow them.

We asked Atlanta native and new southern Indiana resident Charmaine Pitney if she was surprised about the closure.

"I was really surprised, but it's okay, I'll go to I-65," Pitney answered. "We usually use it. I'm from Georgia and I've been here about a year."

For the fireworks and painting crews, being car-free has been nice.

"It's just a safer environment without traffic," Spartan Contracting's Apostolos Hazimihalis said.

RiverLink officials said the closure is a good reminder to get a prepaid account with a transponder, which is created just for times like this. It means $2.00 per pass instead of $4.00. You can save now, even while you wait for the transponder to arrive.

"We have drivers, who for some reason it [the bridge closure] hasn't been at the top of mind. Life is busy and life is hectic and you don't think about this," Peterson explained. "And now you're thinking 'Oh, the Kennedy and the Lincoln are my best options for the next few days.' So open that [RiverLink] account!"

After Thunder, RiverLink officials said having that prepaid account also helps when the Clark Memorial or Sherman Minton bridges have lane closures due to accidents or construction, which slow down traffic.

The official schedule of bridge closures during Thunder from the Kentucky Derby Festival is as follows:

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge (Second Street Bridge):

  • Thursday, April 19: 9:30 a.m. - CLOSED through Sunday at 2 p.m.
  • Friday, April 20: CLOSED ALL DAY
  • Saturday, April 21: CLOSED ALL DAY
  • Sunday, April 22: CLOSED from midnight until 2:00 p.m.

The Big Four Pedestrian Bridge will also be closed during parts of Thunder week. Signage will be placed on the bridge to notify the public of restrictions and closures.

The Big Four Pedestrian Bridge:

  • Friday, April 20: CLOSED 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., for air show practice
  • Saturday, April 21: CLOSED 9 a.m. until midnight; pedestrians wishing to cross the bridge from one side to the other after the fireworks display may do so between 10 p.m. and midnight.

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