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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Tens of thousands of commuters will be greeted Tuesday morning to a number of interstate lane and ramp closures - all meant to widen Interstate 65 - and all the result of construction on the $1.2 billion downtown bridge.
Emergency personnel warned Monday night that the closures could cause delays with patients being transported to area hospitals. Louisville Metro EMS responds to between 250 and 300 runs a day. Rural Metro Ambulance another 60 runs.
If ambulances don't have interstate access they will have to use say the 9th street or 22nd street exit ramps, according to John Hultgren with Rural/Metro Ambulance. He says that might require them to run through a number of intersections before reaching the downtown hospital cluster. And that could cost valuable minutes.
"Having to get off at 22nd Street or 9th street and come into downtown hospitals potentially could delay us a few minutes," Hultgren. "It's going to be difficult at first, but that's what we do we deal with emergency situations."
Emergency personnel say they're working closely with MetroSafe dispatchers to monitor road conditions to avoid gridlock.
Among the changes effective July 15:
- The widening of I-65 southbound near the Ohio River means the interstate will narrow from three to two lanes with the right lane closed from Jefferson Street to Muhammad Ali Boulevard in Louisville. That closing will last through 2016.
- The ramp from I-64 east to I-65 south will also be closed for three years during the Spaghetti Junction transformation.
- On the Kennedy Bridge, lane reductions will occur this week and next as work begins to inspect the current bridge.
Some Indiana residents say it will be worth the wait. "I know it is going to be a longtime solution with a short time headache, but we gotta have it, we need it," said southern Indiana resident John Higgins.
Higgins said he and his wife traveled back and forth to school in Louisville on a daily basis. Business owners said it meant things might not be the same for years to come.
"The three years is going to be a headache no doubt," said Jim Benton of Benton Jewelers in Jeffersonville. "We had seen a good example of it when the Sherman Minton Bridge closed for six months, so it is definitely going to affect our business."
Benton said 70 percent of their client base was in Louisville since that's where the jewelry store got its start. "When we had the Sherman Minton closure, it was a parking lot out here every morning," Benton said.
"During the middle afternoons, traffic is not as bad, and you could get around okay and it wasn't so bad. But so many people heard about the traffic mess that they wouldn't challenge it, so that's where it is going to be a big congestion nightmare for that."
Those who have to travel back and forth say it translates to more planning. "It means I am going to get less sleep for getting up earlier to go to school," said Paige Higgins.
Officials say planning ahead will make all the difference in changing your route to make sure you arrive to your destination in time.
Higgins said sometimes, even the planning ahead cannot change certain situations. "My wife is seven months pregnant and the hospital is in Indiana and if her water breaks, it is going to mean getting back over here to Jeffersonville," Higgins said.
"And with traffic going to be what it's going to be, it's going to be a bit of a test I think."
In addition to the long-term closures, inspections on the Kennedy Bridge this week will have I-65 South down to two lanes. Officials say that will hopefully end this week.