LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Vehicles carrying hazardous materials will be banned from the tunnel near the Lewis and Clark Bridge for an unknown amount of time after damage to the tunnel’s fire safety equipment, state and local officials said.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokeswoman Andrea Clifford said emergency management and law enforcement agencies met with Kentucky and Indiana’s transportation departments and trucking industry interests on Friday to discuss the ban.
She said the scheduled diversion is connected to an “issue” with the tunnel’s fire suppression network but declined to provide other details, saying a full explanation will come in a news release Friday afternoon. It wasn’t immediately clear when that would happen.
By closing the tunnel to shipments of potentially harmful chemicals and other substances, those vehicles would be forced to cross the Ohio River on the Interstate 65 bridges downtown or via the I-64 Sherman Minton Bridge.
Maj. Frank Flynn of the Harrods Creek Fire Department said a computer malfunction recently stopped a pump from circulating water that would be used to put out fires in the tunnel. As a result, he said, pipes were damaged when they froze.
On Thursday, the Kentucky Trucking Association warned its members in an email that a “temporary detour” was planned, with the proposed route along I-71 to the I-65 Lincoln Bridge.
Clifford didn’t immediately know how many vehicles would need to be rerouted. But Melissa Zink, the trucking association’s communications director, said she didn’t believe it would be a significant number.
“I don’t think there’s a large amount of Hazmat-placarded traffic that goes through there because it’s not a heavily traveled corridor,” she said.
A controversial aspect of the $2.3 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, the 1,700-foot-long tunnel carries Kentucky 841 beneath the Drumanard estate near Prospect on the approach to the eastern bridge. The underground route was selected as Kentucky and Indiana sought to comply with federal rules meant to protect historic properties.
Indiana was responsible for the financing and construction of the Lewis and Clark and the roads leading to it on both sides of the river. It cost $495 million for the tunnel and the Kentucky approach roads, but the states have not disclosed the actual price tag of the tunnel itself.
Northrop Grumman of McLean, Va., monitors the tunnel as part of a $12 million contract with Kentucky state government…