Commutes Better Than Expected, New Changes Applied

by Devin Katayama on September 13, 2011

Officials say that rush-hour commutes have been better than expected and new changes will be applied on Wednesday in response to the closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge.

The announcements came from both Indiana and Kentucky’s transportation departments at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. The states addressed traffic concerns for the second rush-hour day in a row since the bridge closed and said that traffic improved when compared to Monday. Transportation officials also gave an update on the Sherman Minton Bridge and said the crack that shut down the bridge will need to be inspected before deciding the bridge’s fate.

Beginning Wednesday morning traffic will revert back to normal Third Street routes coming off westbound I-64 in downtown Louisville, said Mike Hancock, Kentucky’s Transportation Director.

Tuesday morning’s peak commute into Louisville came around 6:30 am, an hour earlier than Monday, said Indiana Department of Transportation’s (INDOT) Troy Woodruff.

“And the fact that we had less congestion on the local roads tells us that more people jumped onto the interstate sooner, faster,” said Woodruff.

The Clark Memorial Bridge will also revert back to two lanes during the afternoon rush-hour commute into Indiana, but in the morning it will remain three lanes into Louisville, said Hancock.

Indiana and Kentucky’s transportation officials had difficulty explaining to reporters why no definitive answers about the Sherman Minton Bridge could be easily given. The two states have contracted the outside consulting firm Thornton Tomasetti to help manage the process.

“It’s impressive that we got called in early on this. Usually we show up after something has happened and we get to look back and see all those places where decisions were not made well,” said Gary Panariello, a senior consultant with the firm.

There’s a tremendous amount of cooperation by both states and the bridge closure was handled properly, he said.

The crack that caused the mess is just inches wide, but it will need further inspection before any other of the less-concerned cracks are addressed, said officials. Cracks need to be considered independently and according to complex formulas and until that’s complete, officials will be unable to give any timelines or make any decisions.

The Sherman Minton Bridge is made of T-1 steel and the combination of factors that tested the threshold is unique to each crack, which is why it was difficult to explain the formula and how to treat it. There are many ways to fix a crack in a bridge, but fixing it isn’t the issue, said Panariello. Further inspections will decide how the INDOT will handle the bridge going forward.

Panariello said the inspection of the first crack will be managed in the next few weeks.

Officials reported no major accidents occurred Tuesday morning, and they continued to ask for commuter patience. Officials reminded commuters that additional changes will occur as needed.

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