LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Ohio River Bridges Project's eastern span is scheduled to open to traffic on Sunday, December 18.

The yet-to-be-named bridge will begin carrying vehicles after a ribbon-cutting ceremony and public caravan that afternoon, officials said Tuesday.  

The bridge – and the roads leading up to it on both sides of the river – will connect Utica, Ind., and Prospect, Ky., and complete a connection envisioned for more than 40 years. The downtown part of the $2.3 billion bridges project is mostly complete and open to traffic.

The ceremony will be limited to “project champions,” while 500 people can register for the caravan at www.eastendcrossing.com/openingday starting at 10 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 10.

Indiana is in charge of the upriver part of the project, which includes the bridge and more than eight miles of new roads that extend the Gene Snyder Freeway in Kentucky, cross the river and meet Indiana 265 in eastern Clark County, Ind.

More than 35,000 vehicles a day are expected to use the bridge.

“It will take a lot of traffic out of downtown for that reason, as well as anybody who's traveling from the north or from the south," said Dan Hartlage, spokesman for the East End Crossing project.

"They now have an alternate and a very accessible alternate to going through downtown," he said.

Unlike the downtown work, there are no bonuses for completing the eastern crossing early. WVB East End Partners, the construction consortium hired by Indiana, has received "milestone" payments of $301.8 million based on building goals thus far; the state has pledged to make $392 million in total payments.

On the Kentucky side, two 1,700-foot tunnels cross under part of the Drumanard estate – a controversial routing decision made to protect a property on the National Register of Historic Places.

The addition of the tunnel has recently prompted concerns from Harrods Creek firefighters, who have alleged a lack of training and funds to properly respond to emergencies inside the structure.  

Three bridges across the river – the eastern span and the downtown Kennedy and Lincoln bridges – will be tolled, but a start date hasn’t been announced.

Will Wingfield, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said there’s no requirement that the bridge must be named before it opens. The state typically works to name structures based on action from the legislature.

The Indiana General Assembly convenes in Indianapolis next month.

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