Ohio River Bridges Project
The Ohio River Bridges Project is an ongoing Louisville metropolitan area transportation project involving the reconstruction of the Kennedy Interchange (locally known as "Spaghetti Junction"), the completion of two new Ohio River bridges and the reconstruction of ramps on Interstate 65 between I-264 and downtown.
One bridge will be located downtown and will be slightly upstream from the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge which was completed in 1963, for relief of I-65 traffic. The other, commonly referred to as the "East End bridge," will connect the Indiana and Kentucky segments of I-265 (via KY-841) between Louisville's East end and Utica, Indiana.
On July 26, 2002, the two governors of Kentucky and Indiana announced that the East End Bridge would be constructed, along with a new I-65 downtown span and a reconstructed Kennedy Interchange, where three interstates connect. The cost of the three projects will total approximately $2.5 billion, and would be the largest transportation project ever constructed between the two states. 132 residents and 80 businesses would be displaced.
The Louisville-Southern Indiana Bridge Authority (LSIBA), a 14-member commission (seven members from Kentucky and seven from Indiana) charged with developing a financial plan and establishing funding mechanisms for construction, was established in October 2009. The LSIBA will oversee construction of the project, and will then operate and maintain the bridges and collect tolls (if a toll option is pursued) after construction is finished. Construction is slated to begin in 2014 with the entire project being completed by 2024.
East End Bridge
The result of many community discussions for over 30 years, the East End Bridge is part of a new 6.5 mile (10.5 km) highway that will connect I-265 in Indiana to I-265 in Kentucky. The completion of the bridge would connect the two disjointed interstates and form a 3/4 beltway around the Louisville metropolitan area. There is currently no plan to construct a bridge on the west end of I-265.
Design A-15 was chosen over six alternatives for the I-265 connection, which includes the East End Bridge. The new highway will pass through the historic Drumanard Estate in Kentucky, in which a tunnel will be constructed to pass underneath as the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The interstate will reappear from the tunnel near the Shadow Wood subdivision before crossing Transylvania Beach and then the Ohio River. The highway will pass north of Utica, Indiana, near the old Indiana Army Ammunition Plant.
This design came as a result of the $22.1 million, four-year Ohio River Bridges Study, which stated that in order to solve the region's traffic congestion, the solution would be to construct two new bridges and reconstruct the Kennedy Interchange.
109 residences, most in Clark County, Indiana will be displaced, the majority of which were constructed in the year before the route for the I-265 extension was finalized. Half of the Shadow Wood subdivision and two condominium buildings at Harbor of Harrods Creek in Jefferson County, Kentucky will be razed.
Limited land acquisition began in 2004, with the number of homes taken by eminent domain expected to be higher because of development occurring in the route path.
The only new interchange along the 6.5-mile (10.5 km) eastern route will be in Indiana at Salem Road. That full interchange will provide access to the Clark Maritime Center and the old Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, a 10,000-acre (40 km2) site that has been targeted for redevelopment. The ammunition plant is now called the River Ridge Commerce Center.
The new East End Bridge will include accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists. Former Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon said he could not wait for construction to begin, adding, "We'll finally be able to take down that sign at the end of Interstate 265 near the Clark Maritime Center that says 'No Bridge to Kentucky,'" he said to applause.
In September 2005, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet released plans to reconstruct the U.S. Highway 42 interchange and rebuild the "super-two" roadway from I-71 north to the interchange. The super-two roadway already has a right of way wide enough for a six lane freeway, although currently only two lanes worth of space is being used. The incomplete US 42 interchange was constructed in the early 1960s with the original construction of Interstate 265. The reconstruction of the northern two miles (3 km) will include the widening of the super-two alignment to six-lanes, the rebuilding and widening of the ramps at US 42, the installation of two traffic signals at the base of the ramps, and stub roadways that will eventually lead into a tunnel to the immediate north of the interchange in a few years.
On July 19, 2006, the final design alternatives for the East End Bridge were announced. The three designs chosen include: a cable-stayed bridge with two diamond-shaped towers with the cables reaching to the outside; a cable-stayed two-tower bridge with the towers in the center of the bridge deck and cables reaching to the outside; and a cable-stayed two center towered bridges with the cables extending to the center of the deck. It was also announced that the new bridge would cost $221 million and feature three northbound and three southbound lanes.
Construction of an exploratory tunnel under the historic east end property was to began in Summer 2007, however bids were 39% more than what the state had expected. Construction of the exploratory tunnel started in April 2011.
The Downtown Bridge will be built parallel to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge upstream and will carry six lanes of northbound I-65 traffic. It will also accommodate separate pedestrian and bicycle lanes. The existing I-65 John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge which was completed in 1963 will be renovated for six lanes of southbound traffic.
A Structured Public Involvement protocol developed by Drs. K. Bailey and T. Grossardt was used to elicit public preferences for the design of the structure. From spring 2005 to summer 2006 several hundred citizens attended a series of public meetings in Louisville, KY and Jeffersonville, IN and evaluated a range of bridge design options using 3D visualizations. This public involvement process focused in on designs that the public felt were more suitable, as shown by their polling scores. The SPI public involvement process itself was evaluated by anonymous, real-time citizen polling at the open public meetings. http://trb.metapress.com/content/g01106864t4r4740/
On July 19, 2006, the final design alternatives for the Downtown Bridge were announced. The three designs included: a three-span arch; a cable-stayed design with three towers; and a cable-stayed type with a single A-shaped support tower. It was also announced that the projected cost for the Downtown Bridge would be $203 million.
This will create an additional bridge in downtown Louisville with the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge which construction began in the spring of 1961 and was completed in late 1963 at a cost of $10 million. There is also the 4 lane George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge which construction began in June 1928 and opened to the public on October 31, 1929, as well as the Big Four Bridge, which operated as a railroad bridge from 1895 to 1969 and reopened as a pedestrian bridge in May 2014.
In February 2008 the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet released a study saying that tolls would be a possible part of the new bridges, as there was insufficient federal funds for the $4.1 billion project. The tolling would likely be electronic, without traditional tollbooths, similar to SunPass in Florida. The possibility of tolls was not met with a warm reception; Jeffersonville's city council quickly passed a resolution urging state and federal officials to find ways besides tolls to fund the bridges project.
2010 Financial Plan
The LSIBA issued the updated financial plan for the Ohio River Bridges project on December 16, 2010. The plan envisions roughly half of the project's costs being financed through $1.00 tolls on the proposed I-65 (northbound) and I-265 and the existing I-65 (southbound) and I-64 Ohio River crossings in the Louisville area. While the financial plan envisions construction beginning in the summer of 2012, the plan still requires approval from the Federal Highway Administration and Congress before work can begin as the existing I-65 and I-64 bridges were built with federal interstate highway funds.
2011 New Issues
On September 9, 2011, Kentucky and Indiana officials announced the closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge. Cracks in bridge support beams found during an inspection on that day led to the bridge closure, which transportation officials indicated would last for an as yet undetermined length of time. The bridge is a major connection between Louisville and Southern Indiana and is Interstate 64’s pathway between the states.
The bridge reopened shortly before midnight on February 17, 2012, almost two weeks ahead of a deadline imposed by both states for completion of repairs.
Criticism and alternatives
Like other public works projects, criticism and alternatives have sprung up. Criticism has largely centered around land acquisition and routing issues, as well as concerns that the Butchertown neighborhood would lose a significant portion of its historical infrastructure with its absorption into the reconfigured Kennedy Interchange. A notable alternative to a portion of the project plan, 8664.org, calls for I-64 to be rerouted around downtown using I-265 and the new East End Bridge so that I-64 in downtown can be deconstructed, making way for downtown park and business expansion in its place. One notable critic is the non-profit group River Fields.
The safety and cost effectiveness of a 2,000-foot (610 m) east end tunnel under the Drumanard Estate, a 1920s-era property on the National Register of Historic Places was questioned. It would be the second longest automobile tunnel in Kentucky, after the Cumberland Gap Tunnel, and the longest allowing Hazmat-containing vehicles to pass through unannounced and without escort. The chief of Harrods Creek, Kentucky Fire Department, who would be first responders to any accident, expressed concern that the proposed tunnel would be considerably more dangerous to travel through and with fewer safety precautions.
A recent study by the Urban Climate Lab at Georgia Tech shows that Louisville, Kentucky has the highest index of the "heat island" effect in America. The “heat island” effect is the difference between the temperature of a major metro area and the surrounding countryside. According to Brian Stone of the Urban Climate Lab and author of The City and the Coming Climate, "The average increase in the temperature difference between urban and rural environments in the Louisville area has been 1.67 degrees Fahrenheit every decade between 1961 and 2010. That’s nearly double the rate of the next city on the list, Phoenix, which saw an average change of .96 degrees in the same period." Stone said that part of Louisville’s problem stems from the unfortunate meteorological conditions of the Ohio River Valley, which is prone to stagnant air conditions but also that the lack of tree cover in the urban core contributes as well. Stone states that “The tree canopy downtown is one of the sparsest of any city I have seen in the country." The tree cover in Louisville’s larger metro area is around 30 percent, according to Stone’s research, with the urban core at just 10 percent. That compares to about 45 percent in the city of Atlanta. The addition of over 440,000 tons of asphalt as a result of the ORBP will undoubtedly push Louisville's heat island effect much higher.
- List of crossings of the Ohio River
- City of Parks
- KFC Yum! Center
- Louisville Museum Plaza
- Spring Street Freight House
- Shafer, Sheldon S. (2006-07-19). "Bridge options unveiled". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 2006-07-19.
- Green, Marcus (2007-09-20). "Tunnel bids top estimates". Courier-Journal.
- Green, Marcus (2008-02-08). "Electronic tracking at bridges means no booths". Courier-Journal.
- Green, Marcus (2007-07-16). "Bridge project tunnels' cost rises; Exploratory shaft will plot path for two others". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 2007-07-16.
- Goodyear, Sarah (2013-05-08). "There Are Few Trees in Louisville, America’s Fastest Warming City – Next City". Nextcity.org. Retrieved 2014-03-31.
- "Impact: The bridge route". The Courier-Journal. 2003-05-02.
- Downtown Interstate 65 Bridge at Bridges & Tunnels
- East End Interstate 265 Bridge at Bridges & Tunnels
- The Ohio River Bridges Project of Kentucky and Indiana
- The Ohio River Bridges Project (contains Flash)
- "The Great Barrier; Neighborhood leaders, preservationists decry Ohio River Bridges Project as an object of obstruction, not innovation" — Article in LEO Weekly
- "Road to Ruin: Interstate 265 Ohio River Bridge (KY and IN)", taxpayer.net
- River Ridge Commerce Center
- Forum to discuss the bridges