Ohio River Bridges Improve Cross-River Mobility and Safety
The $2.3 billion Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project in Kentucky and Indiana aims to improve cross-river mobility, while enhancing safety, alleviating traffic congestion and connecting highways.
"It's to improve cross-river mobility," says Rob Harris, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Construction Manager.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet expects the project will stimulate the region's economy. The Federal Highway Administration's Record of Decision determined two crossings would be needed to achieve the project's goals: one in the downtown area and one 8 miles upstream in the metro area's growing East End.
Debate and conversations regarding building the bridges date back more than four decades. The public participated in design concepts.
The Downtown Crossing
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Downtown Crossing project entails adding a second bridge about 50-feet from the existing John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge, which opened in December 1963. The Kennedy Bridge is a truss bridge with seven lanes and has exceeded capacity for decades. With the new bridge, called the Abraham Lincoln, the crossing will have six lanes of interstate traffic in each direction.
The state opted for a cable-stayed bridge after an environmental review and public input that suggested it would complement the Louisville skyline.
"The aesthetics and environmental process played a significant role in what the bridge was going to be," Harris says.
Kentucky awarded an $860 million design-build contract to Walsh Construction of Chicago, in December 2012 and notice to proceed in March 2013. Walsh was able to start on the substructure while superstructure designs continued. Jacobs Engineering of Louisville headed design efforts. Walsh bid the project 18 months ahead of the request or proposals schedule.
"Decreasing the impact to the public by a year and a half was significant," says Steve Schauer, Project Manager for Walsh Construction. "It took a good collaboration between the designer, the owner and contractor to make sure everyone was working together. We were looking for ways to keep the project moving."
Harris called the collaborative method new to Kentucky. The agency co-located on site with the fully integrated design-build team.
In 2009, when the state initially planned the project as a design-bid-build, the price rose to $4.1 billion, much more than funds available.
"This is Kentucky's first major design-build project," Harris says. "In order to reduce the cost of the project, there were some modifications to the bridge. Design-build is allowing us to get the project completed in about three and a half years."
The three-tower bridge features cast-in-place concrete towers, built in 12-foot form segments and then jumped and repeatedly cycled. Most of the work took place off barges. The team used a large ringer crane for larger picks and other cranes and drills.
The Ohio River has high velocities of water flow, so Walsh had to be careful not to let equipment drift to the other bridge and a dam a short distance away. Walsh used spud barges, driving a pile into the mud to pin the barge. During flooding, the company secured the equipment along the shore, waited until the water receded and worked on shore work.
"The three-tower configuration, I'm not sure there is another one in the United States," Schauer says. "It was a challenge and a reward to be able to work in the river, and as a team open that bridge almost four months ahead of schedule, due to the collaboration among all of the parties."
The towers each have two legs, and each leg sits on two 12-foot diameter drilled shafts.
"That greatly reduced the river footprint through construction," Harris says. "That helped in maintaining a navigable channel."
The superstructure is steel girders, which were fabricated based on an early design package. The bridge has a concrete deck with an asphalt overlay, which can easily be remilled and resurfaced in the future.
"The concrete was for the overall strength and the asphalt was added for overall rideability and for maintenance," Schauer says.
In addition to building a new bridge, the project includes reconfiguring the Interstate 64, Interstate 65 and Interstate 71 interchange, dubbed Spaghetti Junction in downtown Louisville; reconfiguring about 2.5 miles of Indiana roadways and bridge approaches; and rehabilitating the existing Kennedy Bridge.
"There's a lot of cross weaving and congestion at Spaghetti Junction," Harris says. "Our project is coming through and widening, straightening out and fixing the weave issues to make traffic flow much easier."
The work reconfiguring the Kentucky intersection represented about half of the total project. It included 41 bridges, all over other roadways, and maintenance of traffic requiring sequencing and phasing as Walsh completed portions of the work. The new road runs through a historic district and a park.
The project is scheduled for substantial completion in December 2016.
"We will have an excellent facility, on time and under budget, and I am as proud as can be about it," Harris says.
East End Crossing
The Indiana Finance Authority and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) have taken the lead on the $763 million East End Crossing, which includes building a new 2,500-foot cable-stayed bridge, 19 other bridge structures, extending the Gene Snyder Freeway by more than 3 miles in Kentucky, boring a 1,700-foot long tunnel on the Kentucky side and a 4-mile new terrain SR 265 in Indiana, which will connect Interstate 256 to the new bridge. It will complete an outer loop around the Louisville metropolitan area, including southern Clark County in Indiana.
Indiana awarded the public-private partnership project as a design, build, operate, maintain and finance to WVB East End Partners, a consortium of equity entities Walsh Investors of Chicago, VINCI Concessions of Paris and Bilfinger Project Investments of Germany. Like the Downtown Crossing, the East End Crossing will be tolled, creating a defined funding source. With the operations and maintenance components, the cost of the East End Crossing tops out at $1.17 billion.
"It's a means of financing new infrastructure, when there is a defined funding source, and not having to rely totally on federal and state funding," says Ron Heustis, Project Manager with INDOT. "This has been a very successful job."
Rob Morphonios, WVB Project Director, indicated the team is constructing it at a high quality level to reduce future maintenance issues.
WVB began construction in June 2013 and will complete the work in December 2016. The team selected a cable-stayed bridge for its efficiency and economy.
The bridge features a 1,200-foot main span and two concrete towers in the river. The superstructure contains steel girders with a concrete deck. The major components are designed to last for 100 years.
The tunnel has been excavated using a drill-and-blast method, and build out with tiling and mechanical and electrical installations are under way. The location and type of tunnel were not appropriate for a tunnel-boring machine.
Access to the site has presented challenges for the team. Local roads are narrow and residents' backyards are adjacent to the work.
The project has a strong safety record. WVB has safety professionals on staff and conduct daily safety huddles. Each worker receives a card with a number to call if they spot any safety hazards. WVB partnered with the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Morphonios reports.
River conditions and flooding also have posed challenges to the East End team.
"The strong technical team has been nimble enough to adjust for those times Mother Nature does not cooperate," Morphonios says.