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Kennedy Interchange

Kennedy Interchange
Spaghetti Junction
Louisville, Kentucky
Roads at
Opened: 1964 (1964)
Maintained by: Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

The Kennedy Interchange, unofficially, though universally, referred to as Spaghetti Junction, is the intersection of Interstates 64, 65 and 71 at the northeastern edge of downtown Louisville, Kentucky, USA. It is named for the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge located immediately to the north of the interchange (which carries I-65).


  • History 1
  • Need for improvements 2
  • Redesign and reconstruction plans 3
  • Origin of nickname 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6


The Kennedy Interchange was designed by Barstow, Mulligan and Vollmer, a New York firm. Construction began in the spring of 1962 and when it was complete, the design was adequate to handle the traffic needs of the time. Henry Ward, a member of the Louisville Chamber of Commerce in 1958, lobbied in Frankfort to Highway Commissioner Ward Oates to have I-65 (and other interstates) routed through downtown Louisville. At that time, Henry Ward, who would later become the state Highway Commissioner from 1960 to 1967, stated that "downtown Louisville felt it would be disastrous for it to be bypassed by the interstate." There was tremendous pressure from both sides to push the interstate highway system through downtown. Later on in 1996, he reflected back and stated that, "... it was a mistake. I think downtown Louisville would have been better off if Interstate 65 had not been located where it is."

However, traffic was not as bad then as it is now. The projections for traffic was nowhere close to 300,000, or what passes through the Kennedy Interchange that was only designed for a maximum capacity of 100,000.

In 1996, the Ohio River Major Investment Study suggested rebuilding the Kennedy Interchange at a cost of $120.5 million. It stated that during rush hour, traffic congests at the interchange causing pollution and creating potential accidents since it has a high crash rate. From 1996 to 1998, there were 261 crashes for every 100 million miles traveled within the Kennedy Interchange, 172% higher than the state average. The study recommended that two new bridges be constructed, one downtown and one linking the two segments of I-265. In 1997, U.S. Representatives Anne Northup and Lee H. Hamilton, two local politicians, secured $40 million for an environmental impact study (EIS) that was completed in 2002. This allowed design of the new junction and bridges to commence.

Need for improvements

Since I-71 was completed from this interchange to the Watterson Expressway in 1968 and I-64 was completed to the Watterson Expressway in 1970, this interchange has served as the junction for almost all interstate highway traffic entering, exiting, and passing through Downtown Louisville. Some of the ramps do not conform to modern interstate standards (such as merge ramps entering into the left-hand lane as opposed to the right-hand lane). Although the I-65 Kennedy Bridge was restriped for narrower northbound lanes in the 1990s (for a total of seven lanes — four northbound, three southbound), the bridge continues to operate beyond its intended capacity. Some complications at the interchange include the facts that westbound traffic from I-64 cannot exit to I-71 and that southbound traffic from I-71 cannot exit to eastbound I-64.

The states of Kentucky and Indiana have approved a multi-year project, namely the Ohio River Bridges Project, to completely reconfigure the interchange.

Redesign and reconstruction plans

On October 27, 2005, the original plans for a redesign for the Kennedy Interchange were revealed by the QK4 engineering firm. The $1.1 billion project entails rebuilding the I-64, I-65 and I-71. This is part of the $2.46 billion Ohio River Bridges Project that will build a parallel I-65 span and a new I-265 crossing by 2017.

The new downtown span and the redesigned interchange will be a change from the existing setup.

Changes slated for the Spaghetti Junction, Downtown Bridges Project:

  • I-64 will feature two lanes in each direction rather than being funneled into one lane.
  • Widening the shoulders to 12 feet.
  • Building new I-65 overpasses in the downtown at Brook, Floyd and Chestnut streets to make the spaces beneath brighter and more attractive to pedestrians and bikers. New landscaping would also be placed.
  • Incorporating the new Northbound I-65 bridge into the freeway and street matrix.
  • Incorporating the re-built John F. Kennedy Bridge as a southbound-only 6 lane bridge for I-65.

Origin of nickname

The interchange's nickname comes from that of Gravelly Hill Junction in Birmingham, UK, which had opened fifteen years previously and been given the nickname "Spaghetti Junction" by locals.

See also


  1. "A look at Spaghetti Junction." Courier-Journal . 26 Oct. 2005. 3 Nov. 2005
  2. Environmental Planning Strategies "Transportation Case Study".
  3. Lyne, Jack. "Ky., Ind. Governors Back $1.4B Bridge Project over Bluegrass-Hoosier Waters.".
  4. The Ohio River Bridges. U.S. Department of Transportation. 3 Nov. 2005 .
  5. Poynter, Chris. " Junction of the future." Courier-Journal [Louisville] 28 Oct. 2005. 3 Nov. 2005
  6. Poynter, Chris. "A recipe to rebuild Spaghetti Junction." Courier-Journal [Louisville] 23 Oct. 2005. 3 Nov. 2005
  7. Poynter, Chris. "Redesign debuts tonight." Courier-Journal [Louisville] 27 Oct. 2005. 3 Nov. 2005
  8. Ward, Henry. Interview. (From "Interstate Highway System", a free publication from the state highway department.)
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