Community

The Sherman Minton Bridge may be getting a multi-million dollar refresh in a few years’ time, but how the multi-year project would affect traffic isn’t yet known. A partial or complete shutdown of the non-toll bridge when work starts in 2021 could limit the free options for drivers crossing from West Louisville to New Albany, Indiana, and back.

This week, area residents will be able to learn more about the planned changes and provide feedback at a pair of public meetings.

Cathy Hinko, executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, said she is concerned that drivers will have to choose the toll bridges in the event of a Sherman Minton closure. That would hurt those who have to cross to get to work or school, as well as those living in the West End who suffer from a lack of shopping and grocery stores in their area, she said.

“The work has to be done to make the bridge safe, there is no way around that,” Hinko said. The answer may lie in, what are we doing with these underserved bridges?”

She referred to the Kennedy, Lincoln, and Lewis and Clark bridges, which have been tolled for nearly two years and seen lower-than-expected usage.

Kentucky and Indiana transportation officials say there are no plans to toll the Sherman Minton Bridge.

A recent traffic monitoring study found that vehicle traffic on the free Sherman Minton and Clark Memorial bridges has gone up in the past five years, about 23 percent and 75 percent, respectively.

But on the Kennedy and Lincoln bridges vehicle traffic fell by nearly half. And the report’s authors estimated traffic on the eastern Lewis and Clark Bridge, which opened in late 2016, to be about 21,200 this year.

Officials had said they expected more than 110,000 vehicles to cross the tolled bridges each year. According to the report, the annual average daily traffic for the three in 2018 will be about 85,400.

The first public hearing on the $90 million Sherman Minton renewal project will be Tuesday evening at Scribner Middle School in New Albany. The other will be on Thursday at the Chestnut Street Family YMCA in Louisville. Both will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with presentations at 6:00 p.m.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.