LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It is Louisville's most notorious stretch of interstate, and starting July 15, road construction at Hospital Curve will create a bottleneck that will last more than three years.
The right lane of I-65 Southbound between Jefferson Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard will be closed through the end of 2016 as part of the reconfiguration of Spaghetti Junction and the construction of a new downtown bridge over the Ohio River.
"It's going to affect me pretty good, everyday," Nicholas Madden of Louisville, who commutes to a job in Southern Indiana, said.
"From three lanes to two lanes," explained Max Rowland, a project manager for Walsh Construction. "And that, in effect, will be taking away quite a capacity in that roadway. So there will be some congestion there. We understand that."
Neither Rowland nor the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet are projecting how long and how far traffic back-ups will last during peak hours.
"It's not good news," Dennis Kelly of Jeffersonville said. "That's going to cripple us."
Kelly explained that he crosses the Kennedy Bridge four or five times a day.
"That's going to be really, really hard for us," he said.
To keep traffic flowing as well as possible on I-65 Southbound from the Kennedy Bridge into downtown, the project managers are closing the ramp from I-64 east to I-65 south. It is estimated about 8,000 vehicles use that ramp each day. I-64 drivers are encouraged to use I-264 from the Sherman Minton Bridge to reconnect with I-65 near the airport.
"Getting the word out is what's important," Andy Barber, project manager with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said. "My request is that they be patient with us. This will pay off in the end. We will have a better system. This is for a reason."
Meanwhile, construction on the Kentucky riverbank continued Monday on a bulkhead for downtown bridge construction workers to access the Ohio River.
Within weeks, huge metal casings will be bored into the river bottom, the tubes later filled with concrete to create bridge piers.
"We'll auger everything out and core out the rock," Rowland explained. "And once all that material is out we'll bring a re-steel cage in and then we will put the concrete in, starting from the bottom and then forcing the water out as we fill from the bottom."
UPCOMING WORK AND THE IMPACT ON TRAFFIC - Information provided by the Ohio River Bridges Project
• I-65 South: The narrowing of I-65 South from 3 lanes to 2 lanes from the Jefferson Street ramp to Muhammad Ali. The reduction will begin the night of July 15, with the right lane of I-65 South closed through 2016.
• Ramp from I-64 East to I-65 South closes: The ramp is expected to close the night of July 15 and will remain closed until 2016 (1,000 days). The closure is necessary to maintain the flow of traffic on I-64, I-65 and I-71 as crews work to rebuild the Kennedy Interchange. The detour for through traffic is I-264 West.
• Kennedy Bridge inspections: Crews are scheduled to inspect the Kennedy Bridge from July 15-July 26. The work will begin on southbound lanes, with two lanes of I-65 South open to traffic the week of July 15. The right lane will be closed. Transition work will take place over the weekend, with the inspection continuing on I-65 North the week of July 22. Two lanes of I-65 North will be open to traffic. The right two lanes will be closed until the work is finished that week. Walsh Construction is inspecting the Kennedy to finalize design plans for the redecking work in 2016.
• One-night closures next week to prepare for the ramp closure:
Monday, July 8:
o The left lane of I-65 South from the Kennedy Bridge to Muhammad Ali will be closed from 9 p.m. on Monday, July 8 to 5 a.m. on Tuesday, July 9.
o The left lane of I-65 North from Muhammad Ali to the Kennedy Bridge will be closed from 9 p.m. on Monday, July 8 to 5 a.m. on Tuesday, July 9.
Tuesday, July 9:
o The left lane of the ramp from I-64 West to I-65 South will be closed from 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9 to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, July 10.
o The right lane of I-65 South at the Jefferson Street exit ramp and the left lane of the exit ramp will be closed from 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9 to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, July 10.
• Driving piles for new I-65 South bridges/overpasses: This work is expected to begin around July 15 near the Slugger Field lot north of Main Street. Work areas include Main, Market and Jefferson. The work is expected to close some sidewalks and parking lanes and may lead to some lane restrictions. Work will continue on retaining walls on the west side of I-65 through the first half of 2014.
• Equipment is moving on site: A large amount of equipment, including barge mounted cranes and permanent steel casing (31 feet long and 12 feet in diameter) is moving into the area. Being delivered now are some of the building blocks for the piers. There will be a lot of activity on both sides of the river and on the Ohio River. We ask drivers to stay focused on the road and not to be distracted by the work being done. They’ll soon be able to watch the progress being made on one of six construction webcams being installed.
• As always, keep up with the latest traffic information and closures at www.kyinbridges.com.