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

The Downtown Bridge is a cable-stayed suspension with three sets of twin towers. 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 has necessitated total reconstruction of the Kennedy Interchange, or the junction of Interstates 64, 65 and 71.

“8664” Proposal

The “8664” proposal was the removal of Interstate 64 west of the Kennedy Interchange to Interstate 264. The proposal stated that the elevated viaduct acted as a large six-lane steel and concrete barrier separating downtown Louisville from the Ohio River, and interfered with the Louisville Waterfront Park. Interstate 64 would then be routed onto Interstate 264 south of the existing Interstate 64. The interstate would be replaced with a boulevard.

The idea, which had garnered considerable support, was 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 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 straddles a narrow strip of land between the Ohio River and the 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 included the Interstate 64 viaduct that passed over the Great Lawn.13 In early 2007, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) 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 Louisville 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 KYTC that it had 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, although it was still significantly wider than the 154 feet for the existing viaduct.14 The crossing would still be eight to ten feet higher than the prior iteration.13

The KYTC 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 supplanted local laws.13 In response, the waterfront agency stated that the KYTC needed 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 KYTC then refused to release more information regarding the project as a whole to the agency.,13 and also denied the Courier-Journal’s request under the state’s open-records law to review documents on the possible arch span, replying that the design plan was still in its preliminary stages.

On July 11, the KYTC 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 was still 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, KYTC Chief of Staff

Delay

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

Construction Progress

Groundbreaking for the Downtown Bridge was held on June 18, 2013.17 Walsh Investors, lead contractor for the downtown crossing, proposed a completion of their project by December 9, 2016, or 19 months ahead of schedule.18 19

  • Gallery
  • Statistics
  • Further Reading
  • Sources
  • Designation: Interstate 65
  • Crosses: Ohio River
  • Bridge Type: Cable-stayed 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.
  17. “Groundbreaking For New Downtown Bridge Set.” WHAS [Louisville]. 6 Jun. 2013. 8 Oct. 2014.
  18. White, Charlie. “Ohio River bridges price tag slashed by $240 million.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 25 Jan. 2014. 8 Oct. 2014.
  19. Karman III, John R. “Kentucky infrastructure authority approves financing for bridges project.” Business First [Louisville]. 14 Nov. 2013. 8 Oct. 2014.

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