It’s been a long and tedious six months. Now, at long last, the Interstate 64 Sherman Minton Bridge over the Ohio River, connecting Louisville to New Albany will definitely be reopened tomorrow. Or, maybe Saturday. Or, next Monday, at the latest. The bridge was closed by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels on September 9 after inspectors found cracks in the bridge’s structural steel, and commuters on both sides of the river have expanded their vocabularies considerably.
All we could get out of Greg Prince, press secretary for Indiana’s Department of Transportation was, “An exact date for reopening the bridge is not known, and more information will be shared as it becomes available.” But, as late as yesterday, INDOT was reporting that, “Based upon the progress observed during ongoing construction inspections, the Indiana Department of Transportation estimates the Sherman Minton Bridge may reopen approximately a week earlier than the contractor’s aggressive March 1 deadline.
Sources close to New Albany Mayor Jeff M. Gahan tell us that the mayor is anxiously awaiting a “final email” from INDOT, and is in the process of “planning some sort of ceremony.” The exact time and date of this ceremony remains a closely-guarded secret.
Part of the uncertainty about the scheduling of “reopening day,” is due to the effect weather conditions have on the temperature-sensitive operation of painting pavement markings. Starting this week, striping crews have been restoring ramp lanes to their previous configuration where I-64 meets I-265, at the western end of the current detour.
On Wednesday, INDOT made some last-minute changes to connecting roadways, in preparation for the opening of the bridge; reducing the number of driving lanes on the ramp from I-64 east to I-265 in New Albany. The additional lane that was used to help with the increased traffic was removed, causing major delays for Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning commuters.
On the Louisville side of the bridge, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is preparing for the reopening by moving concrete barrier walls and replacing them with orange barrels and signs. Because of the time and equipment required, removal of the heavy barriers has to begin days in advance of the bridge reopening. Barrier walls will be removed from the following locations beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, February 17th:
- Westbound Interstate 64 approaching the Sherman Minton Bridge
- Westbound Interstate 264 (Georgia Davis Powers Expressway) approaching the Sherman Minton Bridge
- Westbound Interstate 64 ramps to Interstate 65
As was the case when the Sherman Minton Bridge first closed, KYTC crew members will be stationed at these locations to prevent motorists from moving the temporary barricades and driving on these ramps prior to the bridge opening. KYTC crews will also re-stripe the pavement on westbound I-64 at the ramps to I-65 as weather and temperatures permit.
Joseph Lord, reporting in the Courier-Journal , compiled traffic statistics covering the last six months, from the Kentucky State Police and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, indicating the level of difficulty interstate commuters have experienced. Lord’s analysis showed a 20 percent increase in daily traffic across the Kennedy Bridge and 73 percent across the Clark Memorial Bridge. Accidents on Interstate 65 increased 87 percent in Clark County and 26 percent in Louisville, compared to the same time period last year, and accidents nearly tripled on the Clark Bridge.
Louisville-based Hall Contracting was awarded a $13.9 million contract to repair the bridge, by installing 2.4 million pounds of reinforcing steel plating along both sides of the bridge ties that run horizontally along the entire 1,600-foot structure. The double-deck arch bridge, connecting Kentucky and Indiana, was built at a cost of $14.8 million and opened in 1962. It was named after former U.S. Senator and Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton, who was a native of New Albany.
Late Thursday afternoon we received a report that both governors—Indiana’s Mitch Daniels and Kentucky’s Steve Beshear—were spotted heading for Louisville. Meanwhile, exhausted commuters and frustrated riverboat gamblers await with ‘bated breath for the paint to dry on all those yellow lines. And Bob Manning  has been wearing his crash helmet to bed each night.
Construction crews play waiting game on Sherman Minton Bridge
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions). The Arena is read by more people in Louisville than in any other city in America. And even the folks over in New Albany are welcome to take a look, now and then. Photo credits: WDRB, INDOT.