Bridging the Gap

Workers near completion of East End Crossing over Ohio River

Bridge between Prospect, Utica to open
in late December

November 2016 Cover

PROSPECT, Ky. (November 2016) – Final work is being done this month on the new East End Crossing, which stretches across the Ohio River connecting Prospect, Ky., with Utica, Ind., via I-265.
The $1.318 million bridge is expected to open to vehicle traffic in mid-December, and “probably just before Christmas,” according to project spokesman Dan Hartlage in Louisville.
“We still have no hard core date for the opening, but we anticipate it to be in mid or late December,” said Hartlage. “The weather has been very cooperative in the last six to eight months, enabling workers to move ahead quickly.”
The uniquely designed East End Crossing features two 300-foot-tall convex diamond-shaped towers connected by a 2,500-foot long cable suspension system to hold the roadway platform in place. It will have two traffic lanes in each direction, expandable to three. In addition, the bridge will feature a 13-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle path.

What's Left to Complete?

The closure marks the home stretch of work for the entire East End Crossing portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project. Substantial completion of the entire East End Crossing – the new cable-stayed bridge, a 1,700-foot tunnel and 8.5 miles of new interstate connections – is scheduled in late December. Crews in Indiana and Kentucky are putting the finishing touches on the shared-use path and interstate connections on both sides of the river. In Kentucky, electrical and other installation work for the tunnel is ongoing. Electrical and lighting work makes up a piece of the remaining work on the bridge as well, as crews prepare to open the bridge for traffic before the end of the year.

Facts about the Bridge
The new stay-cabled East End bridge stretches more than 2,500 feet across the Ohio River. The cables connect to two main towers, which reached their full 300-foot height in early 2016.
The bridge is expected to open to traffic in December 2016.
• 6,670 tons – weight of the bridge deck’s structural steel.
• 4,960 tons – weight of rebar used on the bridge’s main span.
• 1,000 tons – weight of stay cables.
• 104 – number of stay cables on the bridge’s main span.
• 300 feet – height of each of the two main towers.

Transforming Our Region
The new bridges and interchange systems will have a dramatic impact on the entire region, affecting even those who never use the bridges. Of course, the major benefit will be safer travel through what has historically been some of the most accident-prone areas on either side of the river. In addition, eliminating traffic jams will help ease air pollution. But beyond the direct impact on motorists, improving mobility will also add several not-so-obvious benefits.

A 1,700-foot, lighted twin tunnel was required as part of the project to avoid disturbing historic properties on the Kentucky side. The project also includes an 8.5-mile extension of KY 841 (Gene Snyder Freeway) and I-265 (Lee Hamilton Highway) in Indiana – about four miles on each side of the river.
The project required a redesigned interchange at U.S. Hwy. 42 in Prospect 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. The newly designed interchange will send motorists to the intersection of the Gene Snyder and I-71 to access the bridge approach in Kentucky.
Walsh Construction of northern Indiana and Austrian-based Bilfinger Project Investments teamed up with VINCI Highway SAS, a French company that specializes in tunnel building to tackle the massive project. The consortium of the three-company team is called WVB East End Partners, with each letter representing the three company names, Hartlage explained. Walsh Construction, meantime, completed the construction of the Milton-Madison Bridge last year, replacing the 83-year-old bridge connecting Madison, Ind., and Milton, Ky.
“Most of the project is complete already,” Hartlage said. “Workers are now striping the roads, finishing the tunnel lighting and utilities, and painting.” Other ongoing work includes installing monitors and safety equipment, and finishing some landscaping and shoulder work, he added. Also complete are new bridges over the Old Salem Road and Port Road in Indiana.
While workers have enjoyed good weather in recent months, it was not always so. Heavy rain in spring 2014 caused high river levels, flooding and dangerous currents, Hartlage said, thus slowing progress. “Such weather challenges were taken into account in the initial development of the construction timeline,” he said.

Photo courtesy of the
Ohio River Bridges Project

The two new 300-foot towers of the East End Crossing rise into the sky above the Ohio River. They were connected by cable early this year, with the main span connected in September.

Hartlage added that while the long, messy construction has been a hazard for local residents, he said, “Prospect and Utica residents have been great and very patient. Construction causes congestion and it’s dirty and all that, but they have been great. Some have even offered some good suggestions, and a couple of them have made sense and taken into consideration.”
The East End Crossing, as it is being called, is being managed by the Indiana Department of Transportation, while the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet manages the downtown Lincoln Bridge project, renovation of the 53-year-old Kennedy Bridge and redesign of the adjoining interchanges known as Spaghetti Junction, the latter two of which are still ongoing. The Lincoln Bridge opened to traffic late Sunday night, Dec. 6, one day after 50,000 people took part in walking on the new bridge during a daylong celebration.

Photo courtesy of the
Ohio River Bridges Project

Two workers for WVB East End Partners, the construction company consortium building the bridge, consult on site of the East End Crossing in Prospect, Ky.

All three bridges will soon begin requiring a toll for vehicle crossings. The new toll system is called Riverlink and features a transponder system to monitor and charge the tolls electronically. Two existing bridges – the Clark Memorial Bridge (also known as the Second Street Bridge) and the Sherman Minton Bridge in New Albany, Ind., will remain toll free.
The East End Crossing is part of the overall $2.3 billion, four-year project. 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.
“Weather and river levels can be challenging, but the construction team has been prepared and has stayed on schedule to complete this year,” Paul Boone, Project Manager with INDOT, said in an interview earlier this year.

Photo courtesy of the
Ohio River Bridges Project

Workers prepare to pour concrete on the roadway.

Discussions have been under way about how to handle the opening of the East End Bridge, but Hartlage said no plans have been made for a large community event similar to the one used to open the Lincoln Bridge in downtown Louisville late last year. The main problem, he said, is pedestrian access to the new bridge in Prospect.
“There are about 40,000 parking spaces close to the downtown bridges when you consider both sides of the river, but there is no such access in Prospect or Utica,” he said. “So it would be very difficult to try and allow people to walk the East End Crossing bridge. Therefore, an event like the one last year on (on the Lincoln Bridge) is not likely to happen on a grand scale.”
Still, officials would still like to determine a way to mark the historic occasion, he added. In addition, officials seem to be satisfied with keeping the name East End Crossing for the new bridge. Hartlage said he is unaware of any discussions to name it anything else.

Paying the tolls

Meantime, the new Riverlink toll system is ready to go, ranging between $2-$12 in tolls, depending on the program a driver chooses. As of October, 10,000 Riverlink accounts had been registered and nearly 20,000 transponders distributed and nearly 5,000 RiverLink E-ZPass transponders ordered, officials reported.
This system is all electronic, so there will be no toll booths, coin machines or stopping to pay tolls. Riverlink accounts will allow drivers who have them to pay the lowest rates when tolling begins – which is expected to be at the end of this year after the East End Crossing is open. Drivers must set up prepaid accounts to get transponders.

Photo courtesy of the
Ohio River Bridges Project

A look inside the tunnel shows the lighting that will help guide motorists beneath Hwy. 42 and down to the East End Crossing at the Ohio River. The tunnel was necessary to extend KY 841 (Gene Snyder Freeway) and avoid disturbing historical properties in the pathway to the river.

A RiverLink local transponder is free of charge, one per registered vehicle. The small sticker adheres to the windshield, is non-transferable and will work only on local tolled bridges. Drivers choosing a RiverLink local transponder receive it when setting up their account, either in person or in the mail.
A RiverLink E-ZPass transponder is $15 per transponder. It’s mounted to the windshield, is portable from vehicle to vehicle registered to a single account and works in all 16 E-ZPass states. Drivers choosing a RiverLink E-ZPass transponder will receive it before the start of tolling and when RiverLink is ready to service accounts in all E-ZPass states.
Complete information about how to choose and purchase a Riverlink transponder is available on the www.Riverlink.com website.
“As a community we have a lot to celebrate,” Ohio River Bridges Project spokeswoman Mindy Peterson said in a statement earlier this year. “Drivers can see the finish line. It’s in sight.”

Protecting the local historic properties

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 on building the tunnel under a historic property. 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 the former Grocers’ Ice & Cold Storage commercial building 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.

The East End Crossing will connect Prospect, Ky., with Utica, Ind., providing a link that promises to alleviate traffic in downtown Louisville and generate an economic boon to the area.

As part of the project, the state Transportation Cabinet also bought Grocers 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 is still in place.
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, said Andy Barber of the KYTC. “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, Barber said. Earlier this year, the agency planned 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.

• 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. For more information on the Riverlink electronic tolling system, visit the website: www.Riverlink.com.

Back to November 2016 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2016, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta