A mounted camera shows the progress of the convention center renovation. | Courtesy of Kentucky State Fair Board

A mounted camera shows the progress of the convention center renovation. | Courtesy of Kentucky State Fair Board

One block of Third Street in the heart of downtown will close for 10 months as construction crews work to remake the Kentucky International Convention Center, which stretches from Second Street to Fourth Street.

The convention center was built over the section of Third Street between Market and Jefferson streets that will be shut down. Jason Rittenberry, president and CEO of the Kentucky State Fair Board, said on Friday that the closure was “in the interest of public safety,” as large steel beams would be hoisted in the air above the street.

The portion of Third Street will close on Jan. 3 and reopen sometime in October. Rittenberry noted that the street originally was supposed to close for 22 months.

“This issue came up of convenience versus absolute safety,” said Doug Hamilton, Louisville’s chief of public services.

The general contractor, Hunt Construction, wanted to keep the street closed for 22 months, so that it could be used to store equipment and supplies, he added. While that would have been convenient for the contractor, it wasn’t a reason to keep the street closed for an additional year. Hunt Construction ultimately said it could safely reopen the street in 10 months.

Currently, that stretch of road is used by about 8,000 vehicles daily — drivers who will need to be rerouted during the closure.

Hamilton said officials hoped to “minimize the frustration” for commuters, with detailed route planning, timed traffic signals and on-site traffic control.

“While it may be frustrating — and certainly we’ll do everything that we possible can to minimize that — it will not be as frustrating as the Sherman Minton closure or the bridges project,” Hamilton said.

Commuters who typically use Third Street to get to work or elsewhere are encouraged to preplan their new routes and use First, Second or Fourth streets as alternates. Drivers coming Interstate 65 northbound can opt to get off at Muhammad Ali Boulevard and take Ninth Street, while those going southbound on Interstate 65 can take Brook Street to First Street, said Louisville Metro Police Department Lt. Joe Seelye.

The biggest congestion time related to the closure is expected to be around 4 p.m. as people start to leave work, Seelye said. LMPD will have extra traffic control officers out during the first week of the closure to help motorists.

“I would encourage our community to be nice to each other,” he said, adding that drivers should avoid blocking the intersection at Third and Market street, preventing people from turning left onto Market Street from Third Street coming southbound. “This is great for our community, not a lot of communities are thriving like ours.”

No other road closures are currently expected related to the project.

Rittenberry also offered a general update on the convention center construction.

Demolition on the western side of the convention center is on schedule to be completed by mid-February, he said, as is interior work, which includes relocating and expanding the exhibit halls on the second floor. The full $207 million renovation of the Kentucky International Convention Center won’t wrap up until sometime before July 1, 2018.

He added that hassles of construction are already starting to show their worth. There are already 49 conventions planned to take place in the convention center when it reopens, 24 of which Louisville wouldn’t have been able to book without the renovation project, Rittenberry said.