Repairs to Sherman Minton bridge may take weeks to begin
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB Fox 41)
Thursday morning, cars traveled over the Sherman Minton bridge with no problems. Hours after WDRB interviewed official about repair work on the bridge, crews found two cracks on the bridge's beams while making repairs. By Friday afternoon, the bridge was shut down.
"The findings are independent and unanimous. I think I can count four sets of engineering input that says this is nothing to mess around with, we need to take the action that we took," says Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
Crews are now getting a closer look at the bridge to see if there are cracks in other beams. Officials say it is checked every 2 years, but it wasn't until this year, that they noticed a problem.
"The rating of the bridge was it was safe to ride on and drive on- 2 years ago," says Bob Zier, Chief of Staff with the Indiana Department of Transportation.
"We're told, something like 3 weeks will be necessary to identify how big the fix is and therefore how long of a repair period to expect," says Governor Mitch Daniels.
Officials know, with detours in place, traffic is a concern. They say many drivers will be taking the Kennedy Bridge, and assure them that it's safe.
"While Indiana is responsible under our agreements for the maintenance of the Sherman Minton bridge, Kentucky is responsible for the maintenance of the Kennedy bridge, and it is in safe condition and has been inspected regularly and our transportation folks tell us we will have no problems during this time period with this increased traffic that we'll undoubtedly have," says Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.
"This will not just affect cross-river traffic. This has the potential patterns throughout Louisville," says Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth.
Transportation officials say they're coming up with plans to make the drive a little smoother by temporarily widening some ramps, and possibly adding reversible lanes for some roads.
"We're looking for areas where we can add a left turn arrow where we need to make some timing changes getting ready for Monday's a.m. and p.m. rush," says Ryan Gallagher with the Indiana Department of Transportation.
"Our engineers are looking at ways to maximize to flow in each direction at those peak times," says Mike Hancock, with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
In the meantime, drivers and their employers are encouraged to think ahead to Monday. Officials report that 17% of the Louisville workforce is from southern Indiana.
"Be thinking about different types of flex times they can be having for start times-stop times, promoting carpooling amongst their employees. If employees can telecommute until we figure this out, that will be helpful as well," says Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher.
Transportation officials say they have dozens of traffic suggestions they are currently looking into. They also say there are 81 beams in the bridge that they still have to check.
The Sherman Minton bridge closure is of course creating a major issue with traffic. Detours include using I-265 and I-65 in Indiana, via the Kennedy Bridge and Spaghetti Junction.
The bridge closure is causing some traffic projects to be delayed. Transportation officials initially planned to keep the right lane of southbound I-71 closed on Monday, but due to the Sherman-Minton bridge being closed, all lanes will now be open on Monday morning. Officials are hoping this alleviates some traffic congestion.