Traffic should finally begin to flow more smoothly as the downtown crossing of the Ohio River Bridges Project enters its last month and half of construction.
“We are very close to the finish line,” said Mindy Peterson, senior strategist at C2 Strategic Communications and spokeswoman for the Ohio River Bridges Project downtown crossing. Motorists will experience “a much faster, safer commute in the coming days.”
Before the Monday morning commute, all six lanes of the newly refurbished John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge will reopen. The final piece of that puzzle is the reopening of the ramp connecting Interstate 65 southbound to Interstate 64 westbound.
The ramp, which typically is used by more than 5,000 drivers a day, has been closed since December 2015.
Also the Sixth Street ramp on Interstate 65 northbound in Indiana will open over the weekend, said Steven Schauer, project manager for Walsh Construction, which is the main contractor on the project.
Within the next two weeks, all six lanes of the new Abraham Lincoln Bridge will open as well, and the downtown crossing will reach “substantial completion,” he said. “It’s a really good feeling.”
Most of the construction on the roadways, including River Road, will wrap up before the end of 2016; however, workers will continue to make fixes here and there, and work on landscaping through spring 2017. “We’ve got a lot of trees to plant,” Schauer said.
There is still no date for when bridge tolls on the Kennedy and Lincoln bridges will start as officials are waiting for all the lanes of traffic to open and for a testing of the tolling equipment to be complete.
“Tolling is expected to start sometime in December,” Peterson said. “We don’t want to announce a start date until testing is complete.”
Drivers will be given a couple of weeks notice before tolling starts, she said, adding that she encourages people who haven’t already to setup a RiverLink account. The tolling rate for people with an account is $2 per crossing, half of the cost for people who don’t have an account.
People can sign up online or by calling 855-RIV-LINK. People also can visit one of the customer service centers at either 400 E. Main St. in Louisville or 103 Quartermaster Court in Jeffersonville, Ind. The RiverLink-specific transponders are free, but the E-ZPass transponders, which can be used nationwide, cost $15.
So far, Peterson said, 20,000 people have set up RiverLink accounts and 40,000 people have obtained or requested transponders.
The Ohio River Bridges Project is a $2.3-billion, multiyear venture undertaken by the state of Indiana and the commonwealth of Kentucky. Construction is on schedule to wrap up before the end of 2016.
To mark the completion, state and local dignitaries and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Indiana Department of Transportation officials will host an event called “Downtown Crossing the Finish Line,” starting at 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, in the Lincoln Memorial parking lot at Waterfront Park.
Selfie frames will be available for photos and a special Snapchat filter will be available in the area. People are encouraged to post the photos using the hashtag #WeMadeIt.