Bridges project ‘on schedule’
The news was good Friday morning when John Sacksteder with HMB Professional Engineers talked about the Ohio River bridges project.
‘The project is basically on schedule,’ he told attendees at the program hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County at the Harrison County Community Foundation building in Corydon.
‘We went through bad weather, cold weather, rain and the river (being) up,’ Sacksteder said.
Those conditions have not delayed the project billed as ‘one of America’s largest transportation projects.’ The new downtown bridge is expected to be completed in January.
Sacksteder’s program included pictures of the progress of the work on the downtown bridge, which is being constructed next to the Kennedy Bridge, and the east-end bridge that will connect Interstate 265 in Indiana’s Clark County with the Gene Snyder Freeway across the Ohio River in Kentucky.
The project was put out for bids to be completed in five years; however, the company that was hired proposed to do the work in 3-1/2 years. Sacksteder said 60 work days were built into the contract for delays due to weather.
‘We just hit those 60 days,’ he said of the project that started in 2013.
Workers are putting in extra time to stay on schedule.
The new downtown bridge will be 99 feet wide, 2,114 feet long with three towers and 71 feet above the river. At its peak, it will be 280 feet high; the two end towers will be 230 feet tall.
Construction crews on the Indiana side work in 10 feet of water, while the depth of the river on the Kentucky side is 30 feet.
‘That affects how quickly you can put things up,’ Sacksteder said.
The downtown project calls for ‘a lot of ramp reconstruction,’ he said, adding that lanes are ‘dropped off’ at exits prior to traffic actually reaching the bridge, as well as ‘de-spaghetti-izing’ the area in downtown Louisville often referred to as Spaghetti Junction.
Motorists driving south on Interstate 65 can expect to see lane shifts this month as traffic is moved to the new lanes.
Once the downtown bridge is completed, traffic will be routed from the Kennedy to the new structure so rehabilitation work can be done on the Kennedy. Once that work is complete, the new bridge will allow for northbound traffic ‘ with six lanes, there will be room for motorists to pull off on the shoulder in case of emergencies or crashes ‘ while the Kennedy will handle southbound traffic.
Sacksteder said the rehab work is expected to take six to eight months, with completion no later than October 2016.
‘There will be some ramps lost’ during the rehabilitation work, he said.
The east-end bridge project includes a tunnel that will be 1,700 feet long; that’s about twice as long as the Cochran Hill tunnel on I-64 near Louisville’s Lexington Road.
‘Traveling at 60 mph, you’ll be through there in about 20 seconds,’ Sacksteder said.
The tunnel was needed to avoid Drummernall Estates in Kentucky, a protected area off River Road.
‘Negotiations had been going on too long,’ Sacksteder said. ‘It was decided (to tunnel under it) to get (the project) done.’
The approach to the east-end bridge on the Kentucky side will be 3.2 miles long; it will cross Harrods Creek as well as Wolf Pen Branch.
Another point of interest for the east-end bridge ‘ a 2,500-foot, four-lane structure with a pedestrian/bike lane and two towers (the bridge’s construction will allow for the addition of two lanes at a later date when warranted just by changing the striping) ‘ is it will not include a full interchange at Prospect, Ky. Sacksteder said the city of Prospect opposed the traditional four-leaf clover interchange. The compromise, he said, was to keep a 1/2 interchange.
The project also calls for a look-out point on the Indiana side near the bridge as well as three roundabouts in the Utica area.
What Sacksteder referred to as ‘substantial’ completion of the east-end project is to be completed in October 2016. Remaining work will include things such as landscaping.
One attendee asked why a west-end bridge wasn’t planned, to which Sacksteder said there wasn’t enough traffic at this time to warrant a bridge farther downstream from Louisville. He also said the area consisted of ‘mountainous’ terrain.
The Ohio River bridges project was initially estimated to cost $4.1 billion. However, Sacksteder said it was decided ‘to do away with the Cadillac model and build a nice Ford’ project.
The question was posed about when motorists can expect to begin paying tolls to use the new bridges.
‘I’m not the tolling person … others are going to make that decision,’ Sacksteder said.
For more information about the ‘Two Bridges, One Project Building the Louisville ‘ Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Projects,’ visit online at www.kyinbridges.com.
‘Just about anything you want to know can be found there,’ Sacksteder said.
Twenty-four camera points for the downtown bridge and one for the east-end project provide real-time images. Past photos are archived for viewing, too.
Sam’s Club, sponsor of Friday morning’s program, furnished fruit and pastries for the group.