10:46am

Tue September 20, 2011
The Commonwealth

LOU Bridge Repairs Top Federal Priority

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer visited Washington D.C. Monday to discuss the closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge and was assured by a top official that it is the number one priority for the federal highway administration. The 50-year-old span was closed September 9 after cracks were discovered in some load-bearing supports. Engineers and highway inspectors are examining the bridge of the next two to three weeks to determine its future.

The mayor met with Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez to discuss the shut down and its impact on the Ohio River Bridges Project. Mendez told Fischer that the bridge’s closure has the personal attention of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and is the prime example of the country’s crumbling infrastructure needs.

Fischer says a number of possibilities were offered for federal, but nothing is certain until more is known about the bridge’s future, including using emergency funds to either repair or replace the span.

“It’s a couple of different possibilities is the way he framed it. One of course would be the normal funds that float through states for transportation. Second possibility would be any type of emergency funds. And then the third issue would be passage of the American Jobs Act, there’s money in there for infrastructure relief as well,” he says.

Inspectors have estimated it could take anywhere from three months to two years before the bridge is fully operational again.

Fischer applauded the bipartisan cooperation of the state’s leaders, but warned that motorists are becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation and that Washington needs to act.

“If they don’t I think the level of frustration from the American public will continue to boil. There’s tremendous frustration in Louisville and I think throughout the country that unemployment rate has been staying at rates that are unacceptably high,” says Fischer. “And people around the country know moving goods through our interstate system is a basic fundamental responsibility of the federal government.”