NEW ALBANY —
Stop. Go. Stop. Go. We’ve all been through this before.
For commuters in Southern Indiana and Louisville, the nightmarish traffic that affected the region for six months when the Interstate 64 Sherman Minton Bridge was closed to repair a crack is back.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet had reduced southbound traffic to two lanes, and three lanes heading northbound, on the Interstate 65 Kennedy Bridge as part of a planned redecking project. But Tuesday night, transportation officials were forced to reduce traffic to one southbound lane. The closures will remain in effect until Wednesday. Two lanes will remain open northbound across the bridge until that day.
“There’s no doubt if you can avoid I-65 for the next few weeks it would be beneficial,” said Trimarc Operations Manager Tim Emington.
Why traffic is down to one lane
According to a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet press release, during the removal of an overlay on the bridge, crews discovered reinforcing steel is too close to the surface of the road. To cover the steel, crews must put down more concrete than was planned.
The additional weight of concrete will prevent the transportation cabinet from using a special asphalt waterproofing membrane. Because the final driving surface will be concrete, and the machines used for concrete paving are wider than one lane, traffic has been limited to a single lane southbound.
The southbound lane closure is set to be in place until 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Andrea Clifford, spokeswoman with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said the changes in the plan have not delayed the planned completion date for the project. However, she added it is unknown if the change in material will change the value of the $18.2 million contract with New Albany-based MAC Construction and Excavating.
Clifford said after the Wednesday morning commute that traffic was very heavy coming south into Louisville, but it was not as bad as expected.
For Wednesday morning’s commute, Emington said traffic was backed up about a mile or a mile-and-a-quarter in Indiana, heading southboud on I-65. Later in the day, however, the backup extended at least two miles as traffic tried to cross the Kennedy Bridge into Kentucky. He said the backup probably delayed commuters by at least a half an hour at the two-mile mark.
In Kentucky heading northbound, he said the traffic jam extended two miles back from the bridge.
To help manage congestion the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is using reversible lanes on the Clark Memorial Bridge, the same plan that was in place when the Sherman Minton Bridge was closed for repairs. On weekdays, the Clark Memorial Bridge will have three lanes heading southbound to Louisville from 5 to 9 a.m.
“A lot of people are using the [Clark Memorial] Bridge,” Emington said.
He said traffic across the bridge was moving at a typical pace.
“The traffic’s moving steadily,” he said. “It’s not moving fast, but it is moving.”
But the typical pace of traffic crossing the river is still causing headaches for many.
“It’s horrible,” said Jeffersonville Police Chief Chris Grimm. “Traffic’s just bad. We hope people are patient and understand.”
To help limit backups in Jeffersonville, police have shut down the left turning lane of the Court Avenue off ramp of I-65 coming from Kentucky. The entrance ramp on Court Avenue to I-65 southbound is also shut down, but both exit and entrance ramps at 10th Street in Jeffersonville are open.
Despite the backups, Emington said it could be worse. He said traffic is better now during the summer months because school is not in session and it is summer vacation season, so there may be fewer regular weekday commuters.
He also credited the public for adopting the alternate routes that many of them used during the Sherman Minton Bridge closure.
“Anybody that’s driven over [the Kennedy] bridge understands this is very necessary,” Emington said. “Knowing that it is a temporary situation also is helping.”
But he also offered that it would be most beneficial if commuters can avoid the I-65 corridor.
“When we have [lane closures] our alternatives are limited,” Emington said. “If something happens in that one lane, it’s going to come to a screeching halt.”
Commuters already adopting alternative routes
Jeffersonville resident Brenda Wilson, who commutes to Shively, Ky., on Louisville’s west side for work every day, has already taken Emington’s advice.
She said her normal commute to her job at Brenntag Mid-South as an administrative assistant is about 15 to 20 minutes. In the morning, with the construction, she said it takes about 30 to 40 minutes, but Tuesday it took her an hour to get home.
But after the first day of dealing with the heavy traffic, Wilson said she changed her route. She added she is also avoiding the heaviest traffic by leaving home earlier and staying at work later.
“I got stuck the first day,” she said.
Instead of getting on I-65 in Jeffersonville, she said she is driving to New Albany and getting on I-64 to cross the Ohio River. Wilson admitted it may not be faster, but she is moving the whole time.
Despite the delays she said, “I’m happy to deal with it, especially now because of the Sherman Minton being repaired.”
Wilson added that it helps knowing the delays will only slow down her commute for one month.
Clifford said Wilson is not the only commuter that has already changed how they are getting across the river.
“After the first few days, commuters start adjusting their routes or commuting patterns,” she said.
She added that Kentucky Transportation Cabinet had already seen a change in traffic from Monday to Tuesday.
The rest of the closures
Once lanes are repaired heading southbound on the Kennedy Bridge, the lane closures will switch to the north side on the interstate span. Beginning at midnight Wednesday the traffic pattern will be switched and traffic will be restricted to one lane for northbound I-65 traffic and revert to two lanes for southbound traffic.
Additional ramp closures — which will be in place until the project is completed — include the exit ramp from eastbound I-64 to northbound I-65 in Kentucky, the exit ramp from southbound I-65 to Market Street in Jeffersonville and the entrance ramp from Court Avenue to southbound I-65 in Jeffersonville.
Exit ramps from southbound I-65 to eastbound I-64/northbound I-71 and westbound I-64 are closed. The ramps are scheduled to reopen by Tuesday. In addition, the exit ramps from northbound I-65 to eastbound I-64/northbound I-71 and westbound I-64 are closed through July 7.
While the repairs to the Kennedy Bridge are being made, vehicles wider than nine feet are restricted from traveling through the work zone.
Commercial trucks on I-65 southbound in Indiana will be diverted onto I-265 to cross the I-64/Sherman Minton Bridge into Louisville, according to Indiana Department of Transportation Spokesman Will Wingfield. INDOT will also close the Ind. 265/ Ind. 62 westbound ramp to I-65 southbound. The closures are set to be in place until July 4.
All work is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 15, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet press release.
NEW ALBANY —
Stop. Go. Stop. Go. We’ve all been through this before.
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