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Final PM2.5 Project-Level Conformity Analysis for the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville, Kentucky

III. Ohio River Bridges Project Description

General Overview

The Ohio River, which has historically served as a natural, commercial, and recreational resource for the Louisville Metropolitan Area (LMA), also has served as a natural barrier to travel between the Indiana and Kentucky portions of the metropolitan area. The ORB project addresses the long-term, cross-river, transportation needs in the Louisville-Southern Indiana region.
Several specific factors demonstrate the need for action1:

After years of studies and proposals, FHWA issued a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register on March 27, 1998 indicating that FHWA, in cooperation with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), would prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate alternatives for improving cross-river mobility between Jefferson County, Kentucky and Clark County, Indiana. Purpose and need for the project were documented and a wide range of potential solutions were developed. Alternatives included a No-Action Alternative, a Transportation Management (TM) Alternative (a combination of travel demand management, transportation system management, and mass transit improvements), a one bridge/highway alternative and a two bridges/highway alternative. The bridge/highway alignment alternatives were numerous. After a detailed analysis that included extensive public outreach and involvement over several years, FHWA approved the Record of Decision (ROD) in September, 2003.

The study area (see Exhibit 1) is comprised of the "downtown" area where I-65 currently crosses the Ohio River via the Kennedy Bridge, the "east end" area about 8 miles east (up-river) from the downtown area and all the area in between. Numerous alternatives and combinations of alternatives throughout this study area were investigated before the final project alternatives were selected.

Exhibit 1.
Detailed street-level map of Indiana/Kentucky region in the vicinity of Louisville, Kentucky. The study area, including the downtown area near the Kennedy Bridge over the Ohio River and an area about 8 miles east (up-river), is outlined.

The downtown (Louisville, Kentucky) area is currently the economic heart of the area; however, locally-approved land use plans call for additional commercial, industrial, and residential development, with population and employment growth, in eastern Jefferson (Kentucky) and southeastern Clark (Indiana) counties in the coming years. The cross-river traffic is currently accommodated in the downtown area by the John F. Kennedy (Kennedy) Bridge (I-65), the George Rogers Clark (Clark) Bridge (US 31) and, a few miles west, the Sherman Minton Bridge (I-64). There is no Ohio River crossing available in the east end, thus, the east end river crossing traffic currently must use the downtown area crossings.

Of the variety of options studied, the FHWA, Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT)and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) agreed that two new bridges and a Kennedy Interchange rebuild was the only feasible way to meet cross-river transportation needs for the long term.

The project (i.e., "build scenario") is comprised of a new downtown bridge just east of the Kennedy Bridge (I-65); an east end bridge about eight miles from downtown, connecting the Gene Snyder Freeway (KY 841) to the Lee Hamilton Highway (IN 265); and a rebuild to the south of the Kennedy Interchange where I-64, I-65 and I-71 converge in downtown Louisville. A project overview is shown in Exhibit 2.

Exhibit 2.
General map of Indiana/Kentucky region in the vicinity of Louisville, Kentucky. Six project facilities are marked on the map: 1) Existing Kennedy Interchange (I-64/I-65,I-71), 2) New Downtown Bridge on I-65, 3) Downtown Indiana approach on I-65, 4) East-end Kentucky approach on KY 841, 5) New East-end bridge, 6) East-end approach on IN 265.

The project is now in the design phase. During this phase, decisions will include what type of bridges to build, precise right-of-way needs, aesthetic treatments such as landscapes, sound barrier locations and types, and a construction schedule. The design year for the ORB project is 2030 and it is expected to be open to traffic in 2020.

No-Action Scenario

The No-Action scenario for 2025 is taken from the FEIS (see ORB website and is based on the assumption that all the projects included within the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency's (KIPDA) 2020 long-range transportation plan (Horizon 2020) will be implemented, with the exception of the two new Ohio River bridges and the rebuild of the Kennedy Interchange. (KIPDA is the area's designated Metropolitan Planning Organization staff agency.) Socioeconomic (population and employment) forecasts for the Louisville metropolitan area are prepared under the auspices of KIPDA. Per the FEIS, on a metropolitan area-wide basis, under the no-action scenario, population is predicted to increase by 31 percent between 1990 and 2025, while employment is predicted to increase by 53 percent in the same period. At the same time, the total number of daily trips in the metropolitan area is expected to increase by 41 percent. The number of vehicle miles of travel (VMT) is expected to increase by 57 percent, and the number of vehicle hours of travel is expected to increase by 74 percent. Travel in the metropolitan area generally is projected to grow nearly as fast or faster than population and employment in the same period.

At the same time, cross-river travel demand also is expected to double. Between 1990 and 2000, total daily traffic crossing the Ohio River on the three existing roadway bridges grew by 3.9 percent per year. By 2025, a total of 342,000 vehicles per day are expected to cross the three existing roadway bridges, representing a 40 percent increase over 2000 levels (an increase of approximately 1.4 percent per year). By 2025, the Kennedy Bridge, which already is required to handle more traffic than its design capacity (106 percent of capacity in 2000), will be expected to handle 142 percent of its design capacity, resulting in extreme congestion. Other existing Ohio River bridges will experience similar capacity issues.

In addition to traffic congestion caused simply by high traffic volumes, the complex nature of the Kennedy Interchange produces additional problems. A detailed analysis of the Kennedy Interchange and its interstate approaches performed using FHWA's computer simulation model, CORSIM demonstrated that traffic congestion in the Kennedy Interchange and its interstate approaches will increase dramatically between 1999 and 2025. Average weekday peak-hour speeds will slow from 40 mph to 15 mph and the levels of service (LOS), which are currently fair to poor (C-F), will worsen by at least one grade level by 2025. An existing(1999)/future LOS chart is shown in Exhibit 3.

Exhibit 3.
Detailed drawing of Kennedy Interchange and its approaches showing results of computer simulation to predict future levels of service (LOS).  Existing and predicted future LOS (both AM and PM peak LOS) are labeled for each approach.  LOS values range from C-F for all segments.

The Kennedy Interchange and Kennedy Bridge have a history of high crash rates due to design geometry and a lack of shoulders. The safety problems will only get worse with increased traffic volumes and deteriorated LOS on the ramps.

Currently (2006), in the downtown area, Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) is 293,200; truck percentage is 11.1 percent; daily truck volume is 32,5002. Under the no-action scenario, in 2020, the downtown AADT is predicted to increase to 333,4003 with the truck percentage and the daily truck volume increasing to 15.7 percent and 52,300, respectively4.

AADT and truck percentage for 2006, 2014 (open to traffic date for the east end bridge), and 2020 (open to traffic date for completed ORB project) are shown for both the downtown area and the east end for both the build and no-action scenarios in Appendix A.

More Detailed Project Description

As indicated above, the ORB project is comprised of a new downtown bridge just east of the Kennedy Bridge (I-65); an east end bridge about eight miles from downtown, connecting the Gene Snyder Freeway (KY 841) to the Lee Hamilton Highway (IN 265); and a rebuild to the south of the Kennedy Interchange where I-64, I-65 and I-71 converge in downtown Louisville. The downtown element (FEIS alternative C-1) of the selected alternative includes a new six lane I-65 bridge immediately upstream of the existing I-65 bridge to accommodate the I-65 northbound movement. This bridge includes a 17-foot bicycle and pedestrian path. The existing I-65 bridge will be reconfigured to accommodate the six lane southbound movement, resulting in 12 lanes of I-65 capacity over the Ohio River in the downtown area. A Collector-Distributor (CD) system will be developed along the east and west sides of I-65 in Indiana as an important element of the project. The CD system will provide more efficient traffic operations by shifting connections (i.e., ramps) to local streets and highways from the main interstate roadway to parallel roadways that collect and distribute the local traffic to and from the interstate at designated locations. In Kentucky, I-65 will provide six lanes of through-movement south of the Kennedy Interchange: three lanes northbound, and three lanes southbound, to match the existing I-65 six lane section to the south. The downtown element is shown in Exhibit 4.

The east end element provides for a new six lane I-265 freeway from I-71 in Kentucky to SR 62 in Indiana. Interchanges will be provided at three points - US 42 in Kentucky, Salem Road in Indiana and SR 62 in Indiana (see FEIS Appendix A). This bridge also includes a 17-foot bicycle and pedestrian path. The east end element detail is shown in Exhibit 5.

Additional project-level detail can be found at the Ohio Rivers project website

Exhibit 4.
Detailed street-level map of area surrounding the new Kennedy Bridge over the Ohio River.  Portions of I-64, I-65, and I-71 that are part of the project are highlighted.

Exhibit 5.
Detailed street-level map of area surrounding the new I-265 and east-end bridge over the Ohio River.  The new roadway and bridge are highlighted.

1 See the Final Environmental Impact Study, Purpose and Need, page 2 (see ORB website
2 Current AADT and truck percentages are taken from 2006 Kentucky Transportation Cabinet traffic counts.
3 Based on travel projections in the metropolitan area taken from the Project and Need Section, page 2-7 of the FEIS
4 Future truck percentages are determined from KYTC growth rates for each highway functional class where functional class is as defined by Federal Highway Administration's Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS).
Updated: 10/20/2015
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