New Ohio River bridge work to start in July

Construction on new Ohio River Bridge, reworking downtown Louisville, to start in July

Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Construction will start July 1 on a new Ohio River bridge between downtown Louisville and southern Indiana with the$860 million construction project to last a little more than three years, project officials said Wednesday.

The project will involve 21 retaining walls, 40 overpass and ramp bridges and 300,000 tons of asphalt. It is expected to cause traffic delays for the life of the work, but company officials said detours will be well marked and workers will make attempts to minimize inconveniences.

"It's a construction project. Sometimes traffic will be worse than it is now," said Andy Barber, the project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

The new bridge is scheduled to open in April 2016, with the entire project complete eight months later.

Along with the new bridge, which will carry traffic northbound on Interstate 65, the work in Louisville includes upgrades to the Kennedy bridge that currently carries the interstate across the river and converting it to the southbound passage, new onramps in southern Indiana and a redesign of "Spaghetti Junction" in Louisville. The project is part of a larger effort that includes a new bridge between Utica, Ind., and Prospect, Ky.

The states have divided work on the project, with Kentucky overseeing a new downtown bridge and a rebuilt section of interstate, and Indiana in charge of a new eastern Jefferson County crossing. The agreement between the states calls for tolls to help pay for two new bridges, but rates haven't been determined.

Kentucky is financing its bridge projects through traditional state bonding. In contrast, Indiana is using a public-private arrangement under which WVB East End Partners will line up its own financing for the East End bridge and receive annual payments from the state for 35 years after the bridge opens.

Arik Quam, project manager for the Chicago-based Walsh Build Design Team, described completing the work in just over three years "a very aggressive timeline and schedule" that starts with closing the Interstate 64 east onramp to I-65 South this summer until the project is complete.

In southern Indiana, demolition work on a McDonald's and a Waffle House should begin later this year, along with the relocation of several historic homes that are near the site of a new onramp for the project, said Blake Morris, the project manager for Walsh on the Indiana side of the construction. Once work begins on the ramp, it should progress quickly, Morris said.

"It should be functional by the end of this year," Morris said.

Other pieces of the project either underway or expected to start in the coming months include workers boring into the ground to conduct testing for when the bridge foundation goes in and the completion of design work, Quam said.

"Rest assured, there is lots of pre-construction activity taking place," Quam said.

Much of the work will take place near and around Waterfront Park, which abuts the Ohio River. Barber and Quam said the park will remain open and accessible during the construction, with the only difference being a pedestrian detour from a waterfront walkway to a sidewalk along River Road.

Quam said workers, about 300 at the peak of construction, will stay on the job throughout the year.

"We won't shut down everything and leave come next winter," Quam said. "We'll do what we can during that time."

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