Downtown Bridge (Interstate 65)

The Downtown Bridge is a future Interstate 65 northbound-only span connecting Louisville, Kentucky to Jeffersonville, Indiana spanning the Ohio River. Once complete, the existing Kennedy Bridge will be re-designated for Interstate 65 south.

History

For information regarding the design, route and costs of the Ohio River Bridges Project, jump to the East End Bridge (Interstate 265) article.

Function

The Downtown Bridge will carry Interstate 65 northbound traffic when complete, doubling the capacity on a major interstate span. Some traffic will be diverted when the Interstate 265 East End Bridge is completed, where 6% of traffic would be diverted 6. The construction of the new bridge would necessitate total reconstruction of the Kennedy Interchange, which may be altered under the “8664” proposal.

According to the “8664” proposal, Interstate 64 west of the Kennedy Interchange with Interstates 65 and 71 to Interstate 264 west of downtown would be removed. The elevated viaduct acts as a large six-lane steel and concrete barrier separating downtown Louisville from the Ohio River, and interferes with the Louisville Waterfront Park. Interstate 64 would then be routed onto Interstate 264 south of the existing Interstate 64. The idea, which has garnered considerable support, is being studied in part as a possible cheaper alternative for the Kennedy Interchange reconstruction and as a viable way for through-traffic to bypass downtown Louisville via the East End Bridge and Interstate 265 7. It would also “reclaim valuable waterfront property for public use” 8.

Without the “8664” proposal, the three alternatives for crossing the Great Lawn, a component of the Waterfront Park, included, 13

  • An arch span that would have a $160 million cost, but only require 10 pillars on the lawn,
  • a steel ‘haunched box’ girder span that would have a $48 million cost and require 40 pillars on the lawn,
  • and a conventional steel-box girder span that would have a $36 million cost and require 55 pillars on the lawn, nearly identical to what is there today.

The Waterfront Park, ranked one of the top ten urban parks in the nation 13, has portions that straddle a narrow strip of land between the Ohio River and the looming Interstate 64 viaduct. In 2004, a city law created a special district for the waterfront which allowed the Waterfront Development Corp. authority to review and approve of development within the boundaries, which include the Interstate 64 viaduct that passes over the Great Lawn.13 The law stemmed from a Kentucky state law allowing such districts, and its 15-member board is appointed by the city of Louisville’s mayor and by Kentucky’s governor.13 In early 2007, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet released renderings for the three Great Lawn crossing alternatives, but quickly pulled the design featuring the arch span, stating that the “concept” was “too expensive to consider” and “could not be built from an engineering standpoint.”13

In an online poll conducted by the Courier-Journal, 95% of those voted supported the arch span over the more conventional steel box girders. 13 The Waterfront Development Corp. also supported the arch span in that it would have the least amount of impact on the Great Lawn. It has also warned the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet that it has the legal power to approve a design for an overpass at the Great Lawn. It was not pleased with two early designs the state proposed for a wider stretch of Interstate 64 over the lawn, as part of the Ohio River Bridges Project, and was successful in narrowing the Great Lawn crossing footprint from 308 feet to 225 feet — where it is 154 feet currently — after numerous petitions. 14 The span would still be eight to ten feet higher than it is currently. 13

The transportation cabinet, however, disputed their claim of legal authority, stating that federal guidelines trump local planning laws. It also refused to answer questions, stating instead that the record of decision authorized the project in 2003, and that other laws supplant local laws. 13 In response, the waterfront agency stated that the transportation cabinet needs to quote the “chapter and verse of where the federal law allows them to ride over the top of the local community and ignore state and local metro legislation.” The transportation cabinet also refused to release more information regarding the project as a whole to the agency. 13 They also denied the Courier-Journal request under the state’s open-records law to review documents on the possible arch span, stating that the design plan was still in its preliminary stages.

On July 11, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet admitted that it had “erred” when it had shut out local waterfront and city leaders from seeing a design for an overpass at the Great Lawn. 15 The cabinet said that the state is open to considering alternatives to the two designs under consideration and would entertain offers to help pay for a third, more expensive approach.

“Should we have looked at this issue differently? Should we have brought it to the community? Should we have dealt with things in a more upfront perspective with regard to that option? I stand here before you today and say absolutely.”
-Mike Hancock, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s chief of staff

Delay

For information regarding the delay of the Ohio River Bridges Project, jump to the East End Bridge (Interstate 265) article.

  • Gallery
  • Statistics
  • Further Reading
  • Sources
  • Designation: Interstate 65
  • Crosses: Ohio River
  • Bridge Type: Suspension
  • Main Span Length: 2,000 feet
  • Height: 210 feet (interior tower); 125 feet (outside towers)
  1. Shafer, Sheldon S. “Bridge options unveiled.” Courier-Journal (Louisville) July 19, 2006. April 26, 2007 Article.
  2. “Bridge Type Selection.” The Ohio River Bridges. April 26, 2007 Article.
  3. Brake, Alan G. “One Bridge, Two Bridge, Old Bridge, New Bridge.” Louisville Magazine, March 2007. April 26, 2007. p. 47.
  4. Drake, Bob. “Ohio River Bridges Project moves into design phase.” GoBridges.com, February 22, 2007. April 27, 2007 Article.
  5. “Bridge types selected on Ohio River Bridges Project.” The Ohio River Bridges, December 12, 2006. April 26, 2007 Article.
  6. Green, Marcus. “Build bridges soon, mayor says.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), January 19, 2007. April 26, 2007.
  7. “Transportation issues in Louisville, from bikes to bridges.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), March 19, 2007. April 26, 2007.
  8. Thomas, Larry. “Group hopes to �86� I-64 in downtown Louisville.” News and Tribune, August 09, 2006. April 26, 2007, Article.
  9. Green, Marcus. “Bridge designs in; public’s vote out.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), December 13, 2006. April 26, 2007.
  10. Shafer, Sheldon S. “3 final options for bridge designs unveiled.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), July 20, 2006. April 26, 2007.
  11. James, Carroll. “$58 million set aside for bridges over Ohio.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), July 30, 2005. April 27, 2007.
  12. Davis, Alex. “Indiana buys land for bridges project.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), June 12, 2005. April 27, 2007.
  13. Green, Marcus. “Great Lawn overpass disputed.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), May 15, 2007. June 13, 2007.
  14. Bruggers, James. “Watchdog Earth: All for the love of a view…” Courier-Journal (Louisville), May 15, 2007. June 13, 2007.
  15. Green, Marcus. “Not sharing bridge idea was wrong, official says.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), July 12, 2007. July 12, 2007. Article.
  16. Green, Marcus. “Price tag for bridges: $4.1 billion.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), 2 Oct. 2007. 3 Oct. 2007.

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