Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez joined Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock today to break ground on the federally funded $1.3 billion Downtown Crossing -- the second half of the Ohio River Bridges project, a joint effort between Kentucky and Indiana that will help more than 100,000 drivers every day.
"This new bridge, and its East End counterpart, will create jobs and provide more transportation options for one of America's most important trade corridors," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "President Obama has said that investing in transportation helps spur economic growth and, with this ambitious project, Louisville is playing a key role in this effort."
When completed in late 2016, the region will have a new bridge that widens I-65 from seven to 12 lanes over the Ohio River in downtown Louisville and a reconstructed Kennedy Interchange where I-64, I-65, and I-71 converge. The new bridge and its counterpart in Louisville's East End will be the area's first new bridges in more than 50 years.
"Downtown Louisville has needed these new bridges for years," said Administrator Mendez. "By reducing congestion, these bridge projects not only create jobs but will allow local residents to spend more time with friends and family."
The Ohio River Bridges Project -- one of the nation's largest -- is expected to improve traffic safety and substantially reduce congestion between southern Indiana and Louisville. Planning for the project began in 1969. Work on the East End Crossing began last fall.
State officials estimate the existing route serves more than 121,000 drivers each day. The new bridge will nearly double the traffic capacity of the river crossing and significantly shorten the time and cost needed to ship U.S. products through the Louisville metropolitan area.