In Conversation

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The rehabilitation of the Sherman Minton Bridge will affect traffic and businesses in Louisville and New Albany, Indiana. As officials weigh proposals on how to approach the Sherman Minton Renewal, as the project is called, WFPL’s In Conversation invited representatives to talk about the project and its impact.  

Our guests were:

  • One Southern Indiana Vice President Matt Hall
  • Sherman Minton Renewal Spokesperson Andrea Brady
  • Michael Baker International Engineering Lead Aaron Stover
  • Michael Baker International Environmental Lead Wendy Vachet

The Sherman Minton Bridge is essential for many commuters, moving  an estimated 90,000 vehicles across the Ohio River every day. But the bridge is showing its age. It opened in 1962 and stands as one of the few remaining double-decked interstate bridges in America, according to the bridge renewal project’s website.

One Southern Indiana Vice President Matt Hall (top center), Michael Baker International Engineering Lead Aaron Stover (top left), WFPL In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (left), Sherman Minton Renewal Spokesperson Andrea Brady ( right)Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

One Southern Indiana Vice President Matt Hall (top center), Michael Baker International Engineering Lead Aaron Stover (top left), WFPL In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (left), Sherman Minton Renewal Spokesperson Andrea Brady ( right)

Construction work on the aging bridge, paid for with state and federal highway funds, will be done by a contractor chosen by leaders of the Sherman Minton Renewal project.  It’s expected to begin in early 2021.  Spokeswoman Andrea Brady said they are considering multiple options for a construction schedule, including closing the bridge during the work, but it will likely be a combination of proposals they’ve presented.  

“We’re looking at anywhere from a 15-month process to a 38-month process roughly, and that depends on lane restrictions,” Brady said. “It is interesting to hear that some folks would appreciate that shorter duration. Everybody’s got a different point of view from where they sit geographically, and then also whether they’re weighing in with a business perspective or as a commuter.”

Matt Hall can speak from that business perspective. Hall is Vice President of One Southern Indiana, the area’s chamber of commerce and business connector. He said closing the bridge during the project would have an economic toll on businesses, adding that Indiana lost $15 million in tax revenue from the nearby Horseshoe Casino when the bridge was closed for five months in 2011 to reinforce its structure.

“The folks that go from the West End of Louisville to New Albany, that is certainly something we consider as a business organization. How is this going to impact those businesses and the people that utilize those businesses? ” Hall said.

Many residents echoed those concerns in a public hearing about bridge construction. 

Wendy Vachet, the Environmental Lead for project consultant Michael Baker International, said she has heard similar concerns before, and it’s important to understand the communities affected.

“I haven’t heard a lot about it not being important,” Vachet said. “People recognize the importance of this bridge and what it means to their communities, and clearly want it rehabilitated so that it lasts as long as possible.”

Michael Baker International Engineering Lead Aaron Stover agreed that the bridge repairs are sorely needed, adding that project costs are “pretty evenly split” between Kentucky and Indiana. Once construction is done, he said people will notice the improvements.

“We will have some structural steel repairs that need to be done as part of this to strengthen and rehabilitate and keep the bridge up to snuff for the next 30 years,” Stover said. “The painting is probably going to get the most attention from the public’s visual perspective. Obviously there will be a better ride as you’re going across the bridge on the bridge deck.”

Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk with University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi about her tenure and plans for the school.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.