After a decade of public meetings and forums, you’d think all the kinks in how to conduct a public meeting on the Ohio River Bridges Project would be worked out, right?

Wrong.

Tuesday night, about 300 people stormed into the lobby of the Springdale Community Church, a space which could accommodate about 50 comfortably.

WMV East End Partners, the consortium of three companies contracted to build, operate, and maintain the East End Bridge for 35 years, was the primary host.

What happens when you have a bridge meeting actually in the city where the bridges are being built.

A women administering the sign-in table was working harder than a one-armed paper hanger. Out of sign-in sheets, she improvised by using the backs of several blank sheets of legal-sized paper. Out of literature, she was hand-writing the web addresses on pieces of paper and handing them out.

We asked if she worked for WMV East End Partners, as her name tag suggested.

She told us she was with Louisville-based public relations firm Guthrie/Mayes Public Relations.

Some Eastern Jefferson County residents may have believed all this tunnel-blasting and bridge-building was never going to happen.

So when an open house was scheduled, they showed up to get caught up on what was actually going to happen after all.

Maybe WVB, INDOT, IFA, and/or Guthrie/Mayes thought the open house would be attended like the project’s IFA bond hearing last week in Frankfort, where only 15 people showed up.

A single large screen television, and a few easels with information boards were spread around the perimeter of the room. Still, the room was too crowded for the majority of people to even get a close glimpse of the East End map.

The room’s initial set up had the TV and all five easels all nestled up together in the middle of the room, so if that hadn’t been changed at the last minute, it could have actually been a bigger disaster.

According to the open house announcement, this is what was supposed to happen:

“WVB East End Partners, the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Indiana Finance Authority have scheduled two open houses, where the public can visit and learn more about the construction of the Ohio River East End Bridge.  Each open house will include information on construction timeline, project design, environmental considerations, and traffic considerations.”
Those who had the patience to wait and negotiate the crowd may have learned something about the East End Bridge construction plan. But right from the 5 P.M.-start time, many members of the public were turning around and immediately walking out the doors they came in after seeing the crowd. (Like people are prone to do at the post office the week before Christmas, or at Cracker Barrel on Sunday afternoons.)
They missed a lot of information.

One easel outlined three “blasting considerations”for area residents:

1) Neighborhood specific meetings held prior to start of blasting.
2) Pre-blast survey of all structures.
3) Monitoring during all blasting activities.

Needless to say, more than a few area residents were upset that there would be any blasting at all.

Another easel outlined a “gitty-up”-timeline:

2nd Quarter 2013 – Construction of the Kentucky approach South of Drumanard Tunnel
3rd  Quarter 2013 – Start of Indiana construction /Span tower foundations starts
4th  Quarter 2013 – Blasting for Drumanard Tunnel starts
2nd Quarter 2014 – Span towers construction starts
3rd Quarter 2015 – Ohio River Bridge main span starts/ Bridge towers are completed
2nd Quarter 2016 – Concrete liner for Tunnel complete/ Main span of Bridge completed
3rd Quarter 2016 – 841/Gene Snyder complete
4th Quarter 2016 – East End Bridge open to traffic (but not 100-percent complete)

A new East End Bridge animation video was introduced at the open house.

We recorded a contraband version Wednesday night, complete with the harmonious background sounds of flustered dissent:

http://youtu.be/I1uvozzmndk

The bridge in the animation video is not the design we’ve seen introduce hundreds of newscasts since 2006, but a new proposed “diamond-tower bridge”-design submitted in by WVB East End Partners in 2012.

Click to enlarge.

Not to be confused with the new “diverging diamond” interchange planned for I-265 and SR62 in Indiana.

John Sacksteder, an engineer who is the Ohio River Bridges Project project manager, wasn’t asked to attend the open house until Wednesday, but Sacksteder said ORBP officials realized they might need him, so he made himself available.

We asked him about the provision in the WVB agreement about the inside shoulders narrowing at the bridge towers, and he confirmed to us that is the plan.

This is an important detail to understand since the diamond-tower design has towers adjoining the outside lanes, not the inside lanes. In the animation video released Wednesday, shoulders aren’t narrowed in the inside lanes or the outside lanes.

A shorter version of the new animation can be found on this Ohio River Bridges Project’s webpage. (Warning: The old animation, with the annoying music and psychedelic Ohio River, auto-starts when that page is opened.)

The shoulder detail is important because the East End approach is being billed as expandable from 4-lanes to 6-lanes (2 each way to 3 each way), which we’ve reported before may already be problematic in the Drumard Tunnel. (A better explanation, and an update will be forthcoming.)

There’s another open house Wednesday night in Indiana.

We hope WVB and friends have worked out the kinks and are prepared for what’s coming:

What: WVB Partners Open House (Take Two)

When:  Wednesday, March 13, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Where:  John Nobel Woods Utica Community Center, 106 N. Fourth St., Utica, Ind.

(And we’ll save you the trouble, there will be no one at this meeting wanting to talk about tolls, toll studies, or the project’s financing. Somehow, the engineering and construction of the Bridges Project has been seemingly divorced from the Bridges Project’s financing. We’ll continue to document how that came to happen, as we figure it out ourselves.)

Related Insider Louisville posts:

Indiana Finance Authority’s webpage for the East End Crossing