Making the Connection

East End Crossing to join Utica,
Prospect by year’s end

Long-awaited bridge is finally becoming a reality

February 2016 Cover

(February 2016) – For more than 12 years, Dave Watson has left his home in Lexington, Ind., near Madison, at 4:30 a.m. and driven an hour to work at the Ford Plant on Chamberlain Lane on the far east side of Louisville, Ky. He takes Hwy. 62 south to I-65 and crosses the bridge into downtown Louisville, then takes I-71 all the way out to the Gene Snyder Freeway, onto which he travels south two exits to Chamberlain Lane.
But this time next year, Watson, along with thousands of other commuters, will have the luxury of a new, more direct route to work: the East End Bridge, which will connect Utica, Ind. to Prospect, Ky., via I-265. Despite paying a small toll, it should save him about a half hour each way.

• Estimated Cost: $1.318 million
• Projected Completion: End of 2016
• Builders: Walsh-Vinci Construction Co., a joint venture between Walsh Construction Co. and French-based Vinci Construction
• Information: www.EastEndCrossing.com

“It may cost me a little bit, but it will be worth it. I will also avoid rush hour traffic in downtown Louisville on the way home,” said Watson, 52.
The $1.318 million East End Crossing is taking shape, with the first piers standing on each side of the Ohio River. And a tunnel that was required as part of the project to avoid disturbing historic properties is nearing completion in Prospect, Ky. The overall project is now 80 percent complete, according to Paul Boone, Project Manager with the Indiana Department of Transportation. Both the East End Crossing and the Downtown Bridges and Interchange are considered one under the moniker Ohio River Bridges Project, a joint undertaking between Indiana and Kentucky. Together, the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority, a bi-state agency, has been responsible for the financing of the $2.3 billion Ohio River Bridges.

Photo courtesy of Ohio River Bridges Project

An aerial view of the East End Crossing tunnel entrance at the intersection of KY 841 and U.S. Hwy. 42 in Prospect, Ky.

The State of Indiana is leading the East End Bridge project, while Kentucky is the lead on the Downtown Crossing, which includes the newly opened Lincoln Bridge, upgrading the existing Kennedy Bridge and redesigning and rebuilding the Spaghetti Junction interchange. A consortium of Walsh-Vinci Construction Co. (WVC) is building the East End Crossing, tunnel and connecting roadways. Walsh Construction, which recently completed the Milton-Madison Bridge last year, teamed with the French-based Vinci to build the tunnel, since the latter company specializes in tunnel building. Vinci specializes in heavy highway work and has built tunnels and cable-stay bridges around the world.
“Weather and river levels can be challenging, but Walsh-Vinci Construction has been prepared and has stayed on scheduled to complete this year,” Boone said in a late January interview.
Indeed, the project is visibly taking shape. Motorists driving by the tunnel entrance at the intersection of the Gene Snyder Freeway KY 841 and Hwy. 42 in Prospect can see the mountains of rock being removed by heavy equipment and a new road being built down to the twin openings below Hwy. 42.
“Blasting for the twin tunnels is complete now, and work on the final concrete liner is under way,” Boone said. “The two towers of the main bridge, spanning the Ohio River, have risen to their completed height of 300 feet above normal pool, and placement of the stay cables will soon begin.”

Photo courtesy of
Ohio River Bridges Project

Workers apply the finishing touches to the walls inside the tunnel.

The East End Crossing consists of an approximately 2,500-foot-long cable-stayed bridge featuring two convex diamond towers, two lanes in each direction, expandable to three, and a 13-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle path. The Kentucky approach is an extension of the Gene Snyder Freeway KY 841 from U.S. Hwy. 42 to the new bridge, 3.3 miles long and two lanes in each direction, including a 1,680-foot twin tunnel under Hwy. 42, and a redesigned interchange at Hwy. 42 to allow traffic to enter and exit the Gene Snyder Freeway.
There will no direct entry and exit onto Hwy. 42 as it exists now. Boone said the newly designed interchange will send motorists to the intersection of the Gene Snyder and I-71 to access the bridge approach in Kentucky.
The Indiana approach will be a 4.1-mile extension of the Lee Hamilton Highway I-265 from Indiana Hwy. 62 to the new bridge. The extension will be two lanes in each direction and include the addition of a new full interchange at Old Salem Road and reconstruction of the I-265-Hwy. 62 interchange north of Jeffersonville.

Photo by Don Ward

The French and American flags hang above the entrance of the tunnel entrance in Prospect, Ky. The flags represent the joint efforts of Walsh Construction and the French-based Vinci, a company that specializes in building tunnels.

Boone confirmed that the East End Crossing, yet to be officially named, is projected to open to traffic at the end of this year. Once open to traffic, it will be part of an elaborate toll system called Riverlink that will also be enforced on motorists crossing the new Lincoln Bridge and improved Kennedy Bridge downtown. This system is all electronic, so there will be no toll booths, coin machines or stopping to pay tolls.
Drivers have a few options. They can buy a transponder that goes inside a car and pay through an account. Officials encourage that option, which they say is the cheapest.
The second option is to establish a prepaid account connected to a license plate.
The third option is that drivers can do nothing, and cameras on the bridge will take pictures of their license plates and drivers will be sent bills.
Tolls will cost drivers $1 to $12 depending on the type of vehicle and the payment option. Drivers can avoid the toll bridges and cross the Sherman Minton Bridge or Clark Memorial Bridge, which have no tolls.

Photo courtesy of Ohio River Bridges Project

The twin towers take shape for the cable-stay bridge across the Ohio River.

“As a community we have a lot to celebrate,” Ohio River Bridges Project spokeswoman Mindy Peterson said in a statement. “In about a year from now we’ll have the new East End Bridge and an improved Kennedy Bridge. Drivers can see the finish line. It’s in sight.”
While the East End Crossing is finally becoming a reality after 40 years of discussions, it did not come without controversy – specifically about how to avoid disturbing two nationally protected historic properties in Prospect. To complete the design plan of routing the bridge approach in Prospect to the Ohio River, engineers settled building the twin tunnel under the historic properties to join the Gene Snyder Freeway to the bridge. The approach coming out of the tunnel also had to cross over Harrods Creek on its way to the main bridge.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet also had to purchase the three historic properties hindering the path to the river – two historic homes and land in Prospect and a former grocery in downtown Louisville.
Kentucky bought the Drumanard Estate, a 53-acre estate at 6401 Wolf Pen Branch Rd. in Prospect that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, for $8.3 million in 2012. The estate, which includes a mansion built in 1929 and landscaping by Olmsted Associates, which designed New York City’s Central Park, is on the approach to the East End Crossing, so the tunnel is being built 80 feet beneath the property. The KYTC had to do some repairs to the mansion to get it ready to place on the market.
As part of the project, the state Transportation Cabinet also bought the historic Grocers’ Ice & Cold Storage commercial building at 609 E. Main St., Louisville, for $3.6 million and the 1820s Rosewell estate at 6900 Transylvania Ave. in Prospect for $1.6 million. Rosewell subsequently suffered tornado damage, requiring substantial repairs. The KYTC had to demolish the eastern portion of the Grocers’ building and then document what still in place.

Photo provided

The rear view of the Drumanard Mansion features a koi pond. The property will be placed on the real estate market soon after the East End Bridge is complete, officials say.

Nestled on more than five acres near the banks of the Ohio River, the original structure of Rosewell was built in the 1820s with a limestone addition in 1854, giving the home historical significance. More additions were built over the years to create a mansion with more than 7,000 square feet. The KYTC had to come up with a stabilization plan for the Rosewell mansion to withstand the blasting from the bridge construction nearby, Barber said. “It lies just east of the bridge crossing alignment about 2,000 feet from the river.”
The Transportation Cabinet planned to sell Grocers’ Ice first, but the only bid came in at a fraction of the appraised value, said Andy Barber of the KYTC. The agency plans to try again to sell the commercial building before putting the two estates on the market, he said. A preservation easement has been placed on all three properties, Barber said, so any future buyer would have to abide by the easement.
Barber said that purchasing and reselling property to make way for a new road or bridge project is not new for the KYTC, “but it is not a normal thing that we do.” He added that the KYTC plans to put the Drumanard and Rosewell properties on the real estate market soon after the bridge project is complete. “It has taken longer than we expected to repair and sell these historic properties. We had a more ambitious plan for doing this. It’s a process, and we want to do it correctly to get the best results for the taxpayers.”
By some estimates, constructing the tunnel added as much as $169 million – or about half – of the cost of the overall total $338 million bridge approach in Kentucky, and it drew much criticism in the early planning stages. But Barber defends the expenditure, saying, “What we did by acquiring the historic properties and constructing the tunnel all play into the plan of improving the mobility of the region well into the future.”
While Kentucky was responsible for buying the right-of-way on its side of the river, Indiana was responsible for doing the same on its side.
Officials project the East End Crossing to have a marked impact on the region for the next 30 years, and as much as $87 billion in economic impact, by one 2012 estimate. “The benefits of this project will extend for decades into the future,” Boone said. “Public input was a hallmark of the project throughout its development, and the project team is excited and looking forward to the day in late 2016 the public will begin using this facility.”

• For more information about the East End Crossing, visit www.EastEndCrossing.com. For more information about the Ohio River Bridges Project, visit: www.KYINBridges.com.

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