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September 10, 2011

Sherman Minton repair decision could take three weeks

Timeline for repairs undetermined

NEW ALBANY — Diagnosing what kind of repairs are required to reopen the Sherman Minton Bridge in New Albany could take three weeks or more, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said during a press conference on Saturday.

Without any kind of idea on how extensive repairs will be, Daniels said he couldn’t speculate as to how long the bridge will be closed after a recommendation on repairs is made.

He said even though there isn’t a definitive timeline on finishing repairs, he said the closure of the bridge was necessary.

“The findings are independent and unanimous,” Daniels said. He said the opinions of four engineers he spoke with all pointed to the closure of the bridge.

Paul Boone, an Indiana Department of Transportation engineer, said after the conference a crack in a fracture-critical member of the bridge caused the closure of the bridge Friday evening.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said his transportation cabinet is confident the Kennedy Bridge in Jeffersonville will be able to safely handle the extra traffic flow, but slowdowns at morning and evening rush hours are expected.

“We’re going to throw all of Kentucky’s resources at this and work with Indiana’s transportation cabinet to find out how big of a problem we’re looking at,” Beshear said.

Daniels said he couldn’t share estimates on how much repairs would cost, but the numbers he heard were manageable.

Beshear said guessing how much repairs would cost at this point would be premature.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he encouraged employers in his city to allow telecommuting for some of its employees and motorists might do better on the roads if they stay away from traveling during rush hour.

Daniels said he wasn’t sure what kind of repairs would be needed, but didn’t rule out the possibility of replacing the bridge.

“I don’t think anything can be excluded at this point,” Daniels said. “I don’t think that’s a very likely outcome...”

But Tom Galligan, mayor of Jeffersonville and Doug England, mayor of New Albany, said part of their challenge will be redirecting traffic to and from both sides of the Ohio River.

Galligan said Interstate 65 at rush hour was going to be “a parking lot” and taking the Second Street Bridge may be the best option for some commuters.

England said New Albany commuters going into Louisville could take Vincennes Street to Spring Street all the way to the Second Street Bridge.

Scott Stewart, director of strategy and major projects for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said while local leaders are going to do what they can to alleviate the traffic for commuters, drivers are just as responsible for helping solve the problems that are on the way.

“It’ll be the patience and creativity of the commuters that will also help,” Stewart said. “Hoosiers are resourceful and we’re counting on them to help figure this out.”

Galligan said motorists should avoid blocking intersections to allow traffic to flow in all directions and patience is very important.

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