Governor Steve Beshear's Communications Office
New Downtown Bridge to Open ahead of Schedule
More extensive improvements will extend life of Kennedy Bridge
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Motorists will be driving on Louisville’s new Downtown bridge within a year – at least three months ahead of schedule, Gov. Steve Beshear announced today.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is accelerating construction of the bridge, part of the Downtown Crossing of the Ohio River Bridges Project, to allow for more extensive improvements that will extend the life of the 51-year-old John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge.
“Just over a year and a half ago, we gathered at this spot to break ground on the Downtown Crossing,” Gov. Beshear said. “Since then, we’ve watched the towers rise out of the river and the much-needed Downtown bridge begin to take shape. Today’s announcement means progress will be coming at an even faster pace.”
Under the accelerated schedule, the Downtown bridge is expected to open in January 2016. At that time, it will carry both northbound and southbound I-65 traffic.
When the new bridge opens to traffic, the Kennedy Bridge will close to allow Walsh Construction to build a new floor system. The improvements should eliminate the need for major repairs and traffic disruptions on the Kennedy Bridge for decades.
The $22 million cost for the expanded work and accelerated schedule is already in the project budget. The money will come from a contingency account designed to cover unanticipated changes or needs in the project.
“This is a smart, long-term investment that will benefit drivers and taxpayers for decades to come,” Gov. Beshear said. “They will be getting two interstate bridges downtown – a brand new one and a like-new Kennedy Bridge.”
A new floor system will be built on top of existing floor beams, with new stringers and bearings for the length of the Kennedy Bridge. The original plan called for redecking the Kennedy Bridge, with limited steel repairs. KYTC officials determined additional work would be needed after a thorough inspection last year.
“The significant improvements will make the best use of the time the Kennedy Bridge will be under construction and greatly add to the life of the bridge,” said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Project Manager Andy Barber. “It’s a smart use of our time and our contingency dollars. Drivers will see the benefits of the investment for decades to come.”
Impact on Traffic
Both directions of I-65 traffic will be moved to the new Downtown bridge. I-65 southbound motorists heading to I-64 and I-71 will require alternate routes.
Nearly 28,000 drivers use I-65 South to access I-64 and I-71 on a daily basis, about 12 percent of the nearly 225,000 vehicles that travel across the Ohio River between Louisville and Southern Indiana each day.
Motorists will test drive the new bridge for free throughout much of 2016. Tolls won’t be charged until the end of 2016 when new capacity is added for drivers. The other half of the Ohio River Bridges Project -- an East End Crossing connecting the Gene Snyder Freeway in Kentucky and State Road 265 in Southern Indiana – is on schedule to open to traffic in October 2016.
Under the accelerated schedule, the new Downtown bridge is expected to open to traffic in January 2016, with all but one lane of the Kennedy Bridge closing to make the improvements. That lane will allow temporary access from the Kennedy to I-64 and I-71. The full closure of the Kennedy Bridge is expected to follow in approximately one month and last about six months.
One lane of the Kennedy Bridge is scheduled to reopen in August 2016, restoring access from I-65 South to I-64 East and I-71 North. Access to I-64 West is expected to soon follow. The remaining lanes of the Kennedy Bridge will be closed until late 2016.
The accelerated schedule for the Downtown bridge and the additional work on the Kennedy Bridge will not impact the overall timeline for the project. The Downtown Crossing – the new bridge, an improved Kennedy Bridge and interstate connections – will be open by December 2016.