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July 8, 2014

THOSE ARE THE BRAKES: Clark Memorial Bridge closure affects traffic, travel times

JEFFERSONVILLE — Valerie Wheat is a Jeffersonville resident who teaches biology at Jefferson Technical Community College in Louisville.

On days she works on campus, the Northaven subdivision resident normally takes the Clark Memorial Bridge down Second Street to Chestnut Street.

“It usually doesn’t take very long at all,” Wheat said.

Not anymore. On Tuesday morning, it took Wheat two hours to get to work.

“It’s really frustrating, and it’s really hard to plan,” she said of traffic across the Kennedy Bridge.

Wheat, along with many other Louisville and Southern Indiana residents, are altering routes and schedules to accommodate the Clark Memorial Bridge closure for the next six weeks as part of Ohio River Bridges Project work.

Average annual daily traffic in 2013 on the Clark Memorial Bridge — which closed Tuesday morning — was 25,600 vehicles, a 17 percent increase since 2010, according to a traffic study prepared by CDM Smith Inc.

Officials said the closure had the expected impact on downtown traffic in Jeffersonville on Tuesday morning.

“We didn’t have any serious issues today. Everything moved fairly smoothly,” said Jeffersonville Police Department spokesman Detective Todd Hollis said. “We did have a little bit more traffic than what we normally have, a little bit more congestion, but that wasn’t anything that we didn’t expect.”

The morning went without incident, Hollis said, and was free of surprises, accidents and stalled vehicles. There was congestion on Court Avenue and 10th Street, but that wasn’t a surprise, he said.

“Everybody seemed to take the new challenge in stride,” Hollis said.

CHANGE IN PLANS

Wheat said she takes her daughter to Community Montessori school in New Albany in the mornings. Because she’s teaching online summer courses and can do some work from home, she said she has a little bit more leeway when planning her routes.

“Trying to make sure that she gets to where she needs to go and trying to make sure I get where I need to go, even with a flexible schedule, that’s pretty stressful for me,” she said.

She said she plans on taking the Sherman Minton Bridge when August comes and she has to be on campus regularly.

“I’m hopeful that this whole project is going to make [the commute] a whole lot better, but in the meantime, it’s difficult and it’s frustrating,” she said.

Kaiser, who usually leaves home at 8:40 a.m. to get to work by 9 across the Kennedy Bridge, said Tuesday that the traffic from the Clark Memorial Bridge closure is “a disaster.”

“Recently, I’ve started leaving home around 8:30,” she said. “This morning, I left home at 8:05 and barely made it across the bridge by 9.”

Drivers wanting to get on the bridge from 10th Street must be in the left lane, but Kaiser said some people in the right lane who also want to get on the bridge will cut over.

“It irritates me to no end, and everybody was doing it this morning because people weren’t willing to wait in traffic,” she said. “... I sat there for too long to let someone do that.”

Kaiser said that drivers should be familiar with a Clark Memorial shutdown because it happens every year on Thunder Over Louisville.

“It’s like it’s all new to them and they don’t realize it’s going to be a headache,” she said.

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07_28_Nat'l_Dance_1w.jpg

Motion Studio's junior company performs "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in celebration of National Dance Day at the Bicentennial Park in New Albany Saturday. The junior company, ages 7-11, have been working with Motion Studios on the ballet routine for the past four months.

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