WDRB DRONE CAM: Drivers eagerly await the opening of the Downtow - WDRB 41 Louisville News

WDRB DRONE CAM: Drivers eagerly await the opening of the Downtown Crossing bridge

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's been a traffic mess and a true test of patience, but within weeks we'll be driving on a new Ohio River bridge. 

And now -- only on WDRB -- you're getting a view of the bridge construction that you've never seen before.

This is a first for local television in Louisville.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then you might write a novel at the sight seen atop the new downtown Ohio River Bridge, as the WDRB Drone-Cam makes its maiden flight. Stunning images that you can see in the video player above capture two years of work now in the final days.

"It's amazing," said contractor Charles Draper. "It feels like you're on top of the world."

The drone provided an up-close look at eye-level of the 88 cable stays holding up the bridge inside enough steel to stretch from from Louisville to Chicago -- all woven together and secured with 76,000 bolts. 

"I just didn't want to mess nothing up," said contractor Mitchell Draper. 

Charles and Mitchell Draper know where every one goes. 

"It's kind of a cool thing," said Mitchell Draper. "My brother picks the steel up and I hook my cables into it just so he can set the next one...it's what we were born to do, almost."

We first met these guys earlier in the week -- part of the hands that have built history. After completing the new Milton Madison bridge, the Drapers both became foremen on the new Downtown Crossing. They're now known as the "bridge brothers." 

"We make a perfect team if you ask me," Mitchell Draper said, laughing. "He's got the strength. I've got the brains."

The siblings will spend much of the next six weeks in the air, inside these towers. The cement pillars are hollow, and each day workers climb 200 feet up a ladder to the top to tweak the geometry of the new bridge.

"You adjust the cables by pressure -- and that lifts the road deck up and down," Mitchell Draper said.

The WDRB Drone-Cam also captured contractors in the rush to finish the road's surface. Wednesday we saw teams smoothing joints -- those connection points on the bridge that typically jolt your car. This new link tying Kentucky and Indiana will open before Christmas, five months ahead of schedule.

"Every bolt tightened to same amount, not a hole that is empty, a lot of work done on this job," Charles Draper.

As the work winds down, anticipation is growing on the ground.

"Are you ready for that first drive?" asked WDRB's Gilbert Corsey.

"Oh yeah, I think I should be the first person up there," said Cyndi McHolland, one of those Jeffersonville neighbors living in the shadow of history. "When we bought this house we said, 'Oh we're not going to worry about it. They're not going to build that bridge."

Forty years of talk are now reality. 

"They came in and it was disruptive at first, and then we all settled in together, and it's not been bad," said McHolland.

"I'll be glad when all that stuff down there is gone," McHolland said. "Then we can get back to normal life."

While the bridge opens in a matter of weeks for free, by the end of 2016, it will cost drivers to cross. The talk on tolls is $1 to $12 each way. 

"Instead of me making it across the bridge two or three times a week. I may make it one," said Kent Lanum.

Lanum has been a vocal critic of the funding for the bridges. The regionalization expert says southern Indiana drivers will bear more of the cost commuting to Louisville for work. He also thinks Kentucky neighbors will see it as a reason not to cross the river. 

"Now you're putting a tariff barrier and now it's going to impact peoples' decisions on flows, traffic and business," Lanum said.

It's already impacting decisions at Summitt Trucking. The Clarksville, Indiana company bought land to open a second hub 20 miles south in Brooks, Kentucky. The reason?

"We cross the bridge...about 1,500 times a week," said Jodie Spencer of Summitt Trucking.

I-65 tolls are expected to cost Summitt $700,000 a year. 

"So if we can just cut down the amount of times we're crossing that bridge, we're going to save a lot of money and it will be a worthwhile investment," Spencer said.

The Sherman Minton and Clark Memorial will remain free for drivers. 

"I think that what we're going to have is a transportation picture that is so much more improved and people are going to be saving so much time in their commute that at some time you do have to figure out what is your time worth," said Mindy Peterson, Ohio River Brides spokeswoman.

It is the ultimate question for the everyday man.

"It's exciting, extremely exciting, a hassle sure, but exciting at the same time," said one driver.

After two years of gridlock and at times a traffic nightmare, this bridge is the talk of our town. While aerial pictures may be worth 1,000 words, there is only one driver want to hear. 


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