Indiana and Kentucky transportation and law enforcement officials announced on Sunday traffic plans aimed at managing extraordinary traffic congestion on the first work day following Friday’s closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge over the Ohio River between west Louisville and New Albany, Indiana. The public should expect long traffic delays, especially during peak rush hours, with the indefinite closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge between Louisville and New Albany.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and crews survey the bridge Saturday. (Courtesy: Indiana Governor's Office)
Mayor Greg Fischer, joined by officials from the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, announced the following suggestions to help alleviate some of the congestion. When possible, it’s important for people to avoid peak travel times in the morning and evening:
- People should carpool – three or four to a vehicle – to help reduce the number of automobiles on the interstates.
- People should stagger their commute times – going to work early and leaving early or going to work late and leaving late.
- Companies should be as flexible as possible and allow employees to work from home…to telecommute…and to have staggered arrival and departure times.
- If possible, when traveling within Louisville, drivers should use surface streets and stay off the interstate. This will cause more congestion on side streets, however it will help alleviate cars on the interstates.
A detailed traffic management plan has been developed to ensure that congestion is alleviated as much as possible for as long as the bridge is closed. As soon as feasible, lanes of the Second Street Bridge will be converted to reverse lanes, though that is unlikely to occur before Monday. When the reverse lanes are in place, there will be three southbound lanes and one northbound lane during the morning commute. For the evening commute, that will reverse, with three northbound lanes and one southbound lane. Traffic flow on the Kennedy Bridge (I-65) will remain normal. Where possible, exit ramps along I-65 in Southern Indiana will be widened from one to two lanes to help traffic flow.
In addition, officials from the Transit Authority of River City are working with the two states to develop plans to use public transit to move people by buses across the river. The congestion will affect traffic throughout the Louisville and Southern Indiana region, not just those commuting across the Ohio River, officials warned.
“Commuters are the key to making this plan work,” said Ryan Gallagher, director of traffic management for the Indiana Department of Transportation. “It is critical that commuters tomorrow – both morning and afternoon – realize that familiar driving habits simply will not work for the vast majority of people.”
The traffic plan has several key elements that will require commuters to alter long-established driving patterns. A centerpiece for morning and afternoon commutes is a reversible lane on the Second Street (Clark Memorial) Bridge between Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind. On weekdays, the four-lane bridge will have three lanes southbound to Louisville for morning rush hours and three lanes northbound to Jeffersonville for afternoon rush.
Key morning commute changes:
- Special lane-dividing markers on the I-65 Kennedy Bridge to more firmly channel southbound traffic toward I-64 and I-71. Motorists will not be able to access the right lane once they are on the bridge.
- In Louisville, closure of one lane of the ramp from I-65 north onto I-64 east.
- In Jeffersonville, Ind., closure of the Court Avenue ramp to I-65 south from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. EDT weekdays.
Key afternoon commute changes:
- In Louisville, closure of the ramp from westbound I-64 onto I-65 in downtown Louisville. That will restrict I-64 to local access downtown. Commuters wanting to access I-65 will be required to use I-71 or surface streets.
- In Indiana when the I-65 northbound ramp to I-265 westbound is overloaded, signs will direct traffic to a make-shift U-turn at the Indiana 60 exit one mile to the north. Signal timing at the entrance and exit ramps have been modified to help traffic flow.
The changes are being made to compensate for loss of the Sherman Minton, which was ordered closed on Friday after inspectors found cracks in the bridge’s steel. The bridge normally carries 80,000 vehicles each day. Its closure leaves just two Ohio River crossings between Louisville and Southern Indiana – the Clark Memorial and Kennedy bridges.
Indiana State Police and Louisville Metro Police will have officers at key intersections directing traffic and handling accidents. Hoosier Helper and Kentucky SAFE Patrol vans will assist with vehicle breakdowns.
NOTE: If you find yourself stuck in traffic Monday morning—crossing the Ohio River, either to or from Southern Indiana—feel free to contact River Fields at (502) 583-3060. Be sure to ask to speak with the Executive Director, Meme Sweets Runyon, and ask her why her organization has been fighting for decades to prevent the construction of new bridges across the Ohio at Louisville.
To see interactive maps of interstate detours for I-64, I-65 and I-264, click here.