News and Tribune

Bridges Project

July 7, 2014

YOU SHALL NOT PASS: Clark Memorial Bridge closing Tuesday for next six weeks

JEFFERSONVILLE — By late Tuesday morning, the Indiana approach to the Clark Memorial Bridge is expected to be nothing more than dust and rubble, leaving the bridge completely impassable to all forms of traffic.

There was no other way, said Max Rowland, Walsh Construction communications project manager, at a Monday press conference.

“The access will be completely shut off,” Rowland said.

The bridge’s approach will be removed and replaced by a new one that will include access to a “fly-over” bridge that will connect the route from U.S. 31 north to Interstate 65 north; however, that bridge won’t be completed until mid-2015, Rowland said.

The bridge’s access to Court Avenue — and street-level traffic between Jeffersonville and Louisville — should be restored in 44 days, he said.

The Clark Memorial Bridge serves an average of about 25,000 cars per day, according to a recent press release issued by the Ohio River Bridges Project Downtown Crossing communications team. Most of the traffic is expected to impact the Kennedy Bridge, which carries I-65 traffic in each direction between Kentucky and Indiana.

Although the ramp from Court Avenue in Jeffersonville to I-65 south will remain open, Jeffersonville Police Department spokesman Todd Hollis said it might be a smart move on motorists’ part to get on the highway from more northward entrances, like the ones at 10th Street and Eastern Boulevard, to keep traffic spread across all lanes.

Traffic issues in downtown Jeffersonville also will be created, Hollis said, as access to U.S. 31 North near the Clark Memorial Bridge will be closed. Detoured traffic to U.S. 31 North will follow Court Avenue to Spring Street north and access the road from 10th Street. Combine that with only one lane of through traffic in each direction on Court Avenue at Spring Street, and it’s a recipe for gridlock.

“We’ll probably have several blocks of backup on this end,” Hollis said. “Thankfully, once you get past that light [at Spring Street], it probably should be open flow. The other X-factor is the bridge itself.”

Cars on the exit ramps from I-65 north to downtown Jeffersonville could back up onto the highway, Hollis said, and accidents on the ramps could exacerbate what could already be a difficult situation.

“If the cars are mobile, we’ll move them right off the ramp and down onto the surface streets so we can keep that clear,” Hollis said. “If they’re not movable, we’ll get tow vehicles up there as quickly as possible to get them clear, because that will cause an even worse backup.”

The impact on traffic isn’t known yet, Hollis said, but officials hope that it isn’t as bad as the 2011 closure of the Sherman Minton bridge, which forced the estimated 75,000 daily crossing vehicles to alternate routes.

“We’ll deal with it as we can,” Hollis said.

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