Yesterday afternoon, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels ordered the Sherman Minton Bridge shut down due to safety issues regarding cracks in critical load carrying elements of the bridge found during routine inspections earlier in the week. While what happens in Louisville may seem insignificant to the St. Louis Metro-East, its a fact that Louisville and St. Louis had one thing in common: a fight for a new river bridge. St. Louis is getting one built although its on a smaller scale than first proposed. Louisville has been bickering over location and funding from as long as anyone can remember. Because the fight of such a one is still going on in Louisville, the community has stepped up with their own groups, including one that only supports the one that would have carried I-265 over the Ohio, created a more efficient through route for I-64 and I-71, and would had soften the blow for Louisville in an event they are going through right now.
Louisville is essentially screwed right now. That area only has two other crossings across the Ohio that carry traffic – and both of them are over capacity. Those are the Kennedy (I-65) and the Second Street Bridge (also known as Clark Memorial Bridge). Now, those two have to absorb an additional 80K vehicles that usually use the Minton Bridge. (Edit note: corrected it from 50k as I grossly underestimated the amount of traffic that really used the bridge.)
My brother knows first-hand on how bad the situation was in Louisville and this was before Daniels ordered the shutdown. He works in Elizabethtown, and when he goes to St. Louis he avoids Louisville at all costs. He normally gets off I-64 in Corydon and takes IN 135 across the Ohio River near Brandenburg. This causes him to take 2 lane roads but it was light traffic. Thanks to the closure, traffic is likely going to increase as some of the Southern Indiana residents were bragging about going across that bridge (or the Madison bridge) and back into Louisville on various side roads. With InDOT on the hook for the Minton Bridge, there is no timetable on when it will be fixed. Since it carries an interstate highway, odds are the feds will be pushing them to get it fixed ASAP. Yet, the governor of Kentucky is on the hot seat for his lack of infrastructure funding during his term and this is not all his fault. Well that problem is nationwide and only now President Obama is starting to talk about it.
The St. Louis Metro-East knows all too well what happens when a major river crossing is shut down for any reason. Anyone that tried getting into St. Louis on August 11-12, 1994 can account to that. If those dates were too far a distant memory, perhaps the morning rush hour on December 8, 2010 would refresh your memory. In both instances, a major bridge was taken out of commission due to incidents that happened before the morning peak, and the traffic getting into St. Louis from the Metro East was horrible. 55/70 backed up from the Poplar Street Bridge to the IL 159 exit, a distance of 15 miles. If you wanted to get around Granite City on Route 3 or 203 or get to Alton on Route 143, just forget about it. I can only imagine how bad Louisville will be come Monday morning.