Commuters cope with congested traffic after bridge closure
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As expected, it was slow going for Monday morning commuters who travel back and forth between southern Indiana and Louisville following Friday's closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered the bridge shutdown in both directions indefinitely after cracks were found in some of the bridge's steel beams.
The message from officials on both sides of the river: leave early and be patient.
Officials were given the weekend task of mapping out detours for the 80,000 vehicles that cross the Sherman Minton every day.
Some of the traffic modifications include adding lane-dividing markers on the I-65 Kennedy Bridge to more firmly channel southbound traffic toward I-64 and I-71. Motorists cannot access the right lane once they are on the bridge.
Despite the changes on the Kennedy Bridge, Will Wingfield with the Indiana Department of Transportation says some drivers were still trying to get into the right lane to access Interstate 64.
"Traffic going onto I-64 and I-71 have been darting in last-minute to get around that queue," Wingfield said. "We've put some lane dividers up on the bridge -- that'll prevent traffic from doing that, help traffic flow more efficiently."
In Louisville, one lane of the ramp from I-65 north to I-64 east will be closed each morning. In Jeffersonville, the Court Avenue ramp to I-65 south will be closed from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays.
"We don't want that traffic merging in and causing backups further upstream, so that ramp will be closed in the mornings," Wingfield said.
Additionally, the Second Street Bridge, which normally has two lanes of traffic in each direction, will have three lanes southbound to Louisville each morning. There will be three northbound lanes to Jeffersonville for each afternoon.
Commuters heading to Indiana from the east end can only use I-71 to access I-65 and the Kennedy Bridge.
Wingfield says the crack poses a significant safety risk that must be addressed. Noting that the Sherman Minton Bridge is, "an arch bridge, that's like a bow and arrow in the sense that the bow parts keep that bridge below in tension, and that's what holds it up."
Wingfield added that the crack could expand, "and as that tension lessens, that's when you start to see some of those structural issues. So, much like a bow, if you were to cut the string you know what would happen: it would cease to become a bow. So that's our concern with the bridge."
According to Wingfield, experts from around the country were consulted before the decision was made to close the bridge.
"We brought in forensic structural engineers," Wingfield said. "We had engineers from civil engineering schools, and they all agreed that we should shut this bridge down. When all the structural engineers agree on something, you need to follow their recommendation."
Wingfield estimated that it will take about three weeks to complete testing and analysis of the bridge.
"At that point, we'll have a better idea of what repairs will be necessary," Wingfield said.
Even though there was heavy congestion on Monday, Wingfield says it could get worse as the week progresses.
"What you're seeing today may very well be different from what you'll see tomorrow," Wingfield said, "because traffic is trying to reach that equilibrium. Everyone is trying out different routes, trying to figure out which one is quickest for them, figuring out when they need to get out of bed to make it to work for time."
Humana said in a news release it may consider changing staff schedules as the week progresses and city officials are urging other employers to do the same.
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