Bridge To Be Closed For Weeks; Officials Working On Traffic Plan

by Rick Howlett on September 10, 2011

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels says the Sherman Minton Bridge will remain closed for more than three weeks, as engineers inspect the bridge for more structural faults and determine how to repair them.

Daniels ordered the nearly 50 year old span shut down Friday after inspectors discovered cracks in two support beams.

Indiana Department of Transportation Chief of Staff Bob Zier says the first crack was discovered Thursday afternoon.

“They took it out, took a sample of it. they sampled that, they worked on that sample Thursday night, Friday morning and they came to us Friday afternoon about two o’clock and said, ‘you’ve got a major problem with this fault. They sampled 11 beams, two of the beams had faults in them, and we still have 81 more to go,” he said at a Saturday briefing.

Traffic is being detoured around the bridge, using Interstates-65 and I-265 and the Kennedy and Clark Memorial bridges. Governor Steve Beshear says the bridges will be able to withstand the increased traffic load.

Officials are now preparing for Monday’s morning and evening peak travel times. They’re working on a plan that would reverse one lane of the Clark Memorial Bridge during morning and evening rush, and to widen some Interstate ramps.

Mayor Greg Fischer (at right in photo with Gov. Mitch Daniels and Gov. Steve Beshear) is asking Monday commuters to carpool whenever possible and employers to stagger their work schedules to help alleviate the extra traffic that will clog the Kennedy and Clark Memorial bridges.

“If their employees can telecommute until we figure this out, that would be helpful as well. So please for our citizens think about how you can be part of the solution,” Fischer said.

Officials say about 72,000 vehicles crossed the Sherman Minton each day, and about 17-percent of Louisville’s workforce lives in southern Indiana.

There’s more information in this release from Louisville Metro Government:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (September 10, 2011) — The public should expect long traffic delays, especially during peak rush hours, with the indefinite closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge between Louisville and New Albany, transportation leaders on both sides of the Ohio River announced today.

Mayor Greg Fischer, joined by officials from the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, announced the following items to help alleviate some of the congestion.

When possible, it’s important for people to avoid peak travel times in the morning and evening.
People should carpool – three or four to a vehicle – to help reduce the number of automobiles on the interstates.

People should stagger their commute times – going to work early and leaving early or going to work late and leaving late.

Companies should be as flexible as possible and allow employees to work from home…to telecommute…and to have staggered arrival and departure times.

If possible, when traveling within Louisville, drivers should use surface streets and stay off the interstate. This will cause more congestion on side streets, however it will help alleviate cars on the interstates.

A detailed traffic management plan is being developed to ensure that congestion is alleviated as much as possible for as long as the bridge is closed. As soon as feasible, lanes of the Second Street Bridge will be converted to reverse lanes, though that is unlikely to occur before Monday.

When the reverse lanes are in place, there will be three southbound lanes and one northbound lane during the morning commute. For the evening commute, that will reverse, with three northbound lanes and one southbound lane. Traffic flow on the Kennedy Bridge (I-65) will remain normal.

Where possible, exit ramps along I-65 in Southern Indiana will be widened from one to two lanes to help traffic flow.

In addition, officials from the Transit Authority of River City are working with the two states to develop plans to use public transit to move people by buses across the river.

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