Completion of Ohio River bridges means less traffic headaches for commuters
Officials say key changes will shift traffic for generations to come.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Managers overseeing the new downtown crossing portion of the Ohio River bridges project said Tuesday that the days of daily gridlock in the Louisville commute are done.
Steve Schauer, Rob Harris and Andy Barber are project and construction managers, important roles in taking $1.3 billion Abraham Lincoln Bridge and revamp in Spaghetti Junction from concept to completion. After three years of work, each bridge leader highlighted a different piece of the now complete puzzle that will benefit drivers.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet project manager Andy Barber spoke about the positives of added lane capacity. Previously, the Kennedy Bridge carried northbound and southbound traffic simultaneously over the river.
With the completion of the project, the new Lincoln Bridge carries six lanes of traffic north toward Indianapolis while the Kennedy Bridge is exclusive to drivers heading south through Louisville.
Barber said drivers will notice the benefit of more lanes most during a wreck, specifically the shoulder space.
"You'd have twice daily occurrence of accidents," he said. "It would just ripple through the city. Now, if you have a minor fender bender, you can get off to side, traffic can still move, emergency vehicles can get to you. That's a huge change."
KYTC Construction Manager Rob Harris said he was daunted by the scope of the work he would oversee.
"As a civil engineer, for us, we don't get a chance to be a part of a project like this," he said. "There were 40 bridges on this (Louisville) side of the river, 20 on the other (southern Indiana) and a cable stay bridge. It's just like wow! It was great fun."
Steve Schauer moved with his family from Arizona to serve as Walsh Construction's project manager. Schauer identified a combination of shifts through Spaghetti Junction designed to speed up the commute like the flyover ramp from Story Avenue to I-65, meant to unclog an at-times dangerous merge onto I-64.
Schauer said drivers should find few delays.
"Coming through this area, I would say absolutely," he said. "It's a beautiful trek."
While leaders gushed over the bridge completion accomplishment, they still could not provide an exact date for the start of tolling.
Drivers heading north on the new Lincoln Bridge, south on the repaired Kennedy and either way on the yet-to-open crossing in the east end will have to pay the toll.
"We did what we said we were going to do," Barber said. "We were going to improve cross-river mobility, improve safety and improve congestion downtown."
Meanwhile, closures connected to construction areas like River Road and Jefferson and Witherspoon Streets in Louisville are expected to last through at least the end of the year.
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