Drivers prepare for continuation of highway gridlock


by Bryan Baker

Posted on May 9, 2012 at 11:58 PM

Updated Thursday, May 10 at 12:03 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Just before 8 p.m. Wednesday, construction crews unloaded orange barrels blocking the right lane of I-71 northbound. Following a hiatus for the Kentucky Derby festivities, the nightmare has resumed for hundreds of thousands of Kentuckiana drivers.
Crews will close one northbound lane each beginning Wednesday night until early morning Saturday, May 26 while they replace concrete on nine bridges throughout that span. This weekend all of I-71 between spaghetti junction downtown and the Watterson Expressway will close for that bridge work and completion of repaving work in the southbound lanes that began before the Derby. The northbound lanes will once again close the first weekend in June to wrap up the $10 million project.

"There are gonna be impacts though," Andrea Clifford with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said. "Congestion and delays due to the construction work, but anyone who travels these roads on a regular basis realizes that they are in need of the repairs, in need of the resurfacing, and I think motorists will appreciate the final product once we get there at the end of the summer."

Until then drivers are weighing in on projects that are nearly universally realized as inconvenient, no matter what the final outcome.

"I think the roads are pretty bad, so I would say, yeah it is worth it in the long-run, but in the mean time we suffer a lot with our major everyday commutes," Fred Parker said.
Detours will take drivers along I-64 and I-264, though officials recommend local drivers try US-42 or River Road.

Construction wasn't set to converge at one time on multiple highways. You can blame the Sherman Minton bridge closure last year for that.

"The thing that didn't work out the way we had planned was the work on 71 being delayed due to the Sherman Minton Bridge closure," Clifford said. "The way we had planned it, this work on 71 would have been done the end of 2011, and we would only have the two Interstate 65 projects going on right now."

One of those projects finished Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule. Contractors were replacing structural steel on southbound lanes of the Kennedy Bridge but were done around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The other project is a continuation of I-65 construction that began before Derby -- repaving along a four-mile stretch from the Watterson Expressway to the Chestnut Road exit near hospital curve.

"We want it to be safe, so there's not areas, potholes, bridge-ins that are unlevel due to settling over time, and people end up possibly damaging their vehicles," Clifford said. "We want to make it a smooth transport through our area so people who will deliver commerce will want to use this route and want to come through the Louisville area, deliver goods and services to this area, not think, 'Oh that's a terrible town to travel through because of the road conditions.'"

Once the projects are finished, major work on the Kennedy Bridge will begin in mid-June. You can expect lane closures, reducing travel on them down to one or two lanes. One weekend per direction, the northbound and southbound lanes will be completely shut down for bridge deck work and repaving.