LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- A five-month traffic nightmare ended about ten minutes before midnight Friday with the re-opening of the Sherman Minton Bridge.
WDRB News was the first to report Friday afternoon that the bridge would open.
Many of our Facebook fans were quick to show how glad they were the work on the bridge was done:
Samantha Hedgespeth said, "I almost started crying when I watched them open the ramps to the bridge just like I do every year at each start of the race at the Derby."
Regina Wherry Lucas commented, "Hooray!! I walked across it with some of my friends before it opened in 1962 so it's great to see it open again!!"
Hall Contracting officials told reporters late Friday that the last day of work on the bridge had been extremely busy. Cars immediately began crossing the bridge once it was open.
The reaction from WDRB Facebook fans after we reported on Friday afternoon that the bridge would open was immediate:
Jill Scoggins said, "Our long municipal nightmare is over!"
Laura Auxier Johnson said, "I'm gonna go wait in line!"
Other reactions were simple and direct: "yay!" "YEAH!!!!!!" "Awesome"
Over the last few days, traffic patterns were getting back to normal on the Kentucky side of the bridge. Crews arrived early Friday morning to remove concrete barriers.
They started the process before daylight Friday, using a massive crane brought in earlier in the week to move the barriers that were put into place not long after the bridge was ordered closed by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels last September. That's after a crack was found in a load-bearing piece of steel.
Most of the concrete barriers were gone by the time the sun came up Friday.
Hall Contracting, the firm hired to make repairs, gets a $100,000 bonus for each day the bridge is complete before the March 1 deadline.
Drivers have been eagerly awaiting the bridge's reopening as it became clear in recent days it was about to happen. Many enthusiastically honked their horns as they passed our crews on Interstate 64 early Friday.
"They're really happy, and we're happy too," said Clifford on Friday. "I think they have been patient."
Even though the Sherman Minton is back in service, a lot of people have wondered if the Kennedy Bridge will be shut down to make repairs to its deck. Clifford says the Kennedy Bridge will not be completely closed for those repairs: "Anyone who has been driving across the Kennedy as part of the detour knows that it is riddled with potholes and the deck needs major repairs. So we have a project that's coming up this summer to re-do the deck on the Kennedy Bridge."
Clifford says the repairs will include fixing those potholes and adding an asphalt water-proofing membrane, and making repairs to the expansion joints. Construction isn't slated to begin until after Memorial Day and is expected to be completed by mid-August.
"The (Kennedy) bridge will remain open," Clifford said. "But there will be lane closures, even during the daytime -- not just night and weekend work -- because of the type of work that has to be done. It's going to impact motorists, but it's not going to be completely closed."
Clifford says work that was halted on Interstate 71 will also resume in the spring and that work is expected to be complete before work begins on the Kennedy.
(Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.)