When the new $103 million Milton-Madison Bridge opened to vehicular traffic in 2014, it gave a sense of pride to area residents and pedestrians who for the first time could walk the half-mile span. That is, until they reached the Madison, Ind., side.
That’s when drivers were forced to travel through a row of makeshift sidewalk sales booths set up on both sides of the road as they approached the intersection at Second Street. Many community residents complained about the situation and considered it a scourge to have the gateway into Madison’s National Historic Landmark District riddled with such sights.
But that is about to change.
Ever since Indiana officials agreed in summer 2014 to provide $14 million to redesign the Hwy. 421 bridge approach in Madison, engineers and other highway officials have been busy designing alternate routes to usher traffic off the bridge and onto Madison’s Main Street – and without the junk dealers lining the way.
Photo by Don Ward
INDOT consultant Jerry Bollinger (far right) explains some of the Project 421 plans to a group of community residents during the Feb. 20 open house at the Brown Gym in Madison, Ind.
The agreement reached in June 2014 between the state, city and county officials for “Project 421,” the state would pay for the project and the city and county will take over maintenance and upkeep of about 4.4 miles of what are now state highways.
As part of the multi-year process to complete environmental studies, appraise and acquire the necessary right of way, and build the new roadway, Indiana Department of Transportation officials held yet another public hearing on the proposed plans on Feb. 20 at the Brown Gym in Madison. There, they presented their “preferred alternate route,” which would route motorists from the bridge north to a traffic-lighted, street-level intersection at Second Street, then continue north to join onto Main Street. Traffic coming west from Vevay would be routed into the same intersection to be able to connect onto Main Street.
In addition a limestone retaining wall would be built in a terraced fashion just below the Hillside Inn and along the new connector road linking to Main Street.
As part of the public hearing process, INDOT officials recorded statements from individuals pertaining to its recently published Environmental Assessment document and the selection of a preferred route for constructing a half-mile section of U.S. 421 that leads to the bridge at Madison.
Verbal statements recorded during the hearing and all written comments submitted prior to, during and for a two-week post-hearing period ending March 7 will be considered before development of final engineering plans.
INDOT officials say their preferred alternate route was the best that addresses safety concerns, mobility challenges and pedestrian connectivity. They listed several benefits of this alternative route:
Photo courtesy of INDOT
This illustration shows the path of the “preferred alternative” that INDOT wants to build at the approach to the Milton-Madison Bridge in Madison, Ind. The approach to the bridge is at the bottom. Traffic would come off the bridge into an intersection at Second Street (center) then proceed north onto Main Street. Traffic coming from Vevay would also be routed through the intersection, then turn north to Main Street.
• Improvement of corridor safety by more than 20 percent.
You can learn more about Project 421 at the website: www.Project421.com.
• Overall reduction in corridor noise levels and fewer impacts to the National Historic Landmarks and to properties identified on the National Register of Historic Places.
• Lowest total project cost of all build alternatives studied.
• Decreased travel times in the corridor by 40 percent when compared to the existing condition, and 6 percent over the grade-separated option.
“I’m delighted that Indiana will soon have a nice, new entryway as folks enter Madison from the bridge,” said Madison City Council At-Large member Laura Hodges, who attended the recent public hearing. “I’m told there will be a nice green space on the hill below Hillside Inn with a natural limestone retaining wall. That should look very nice.”
In addition, Hodges said she was pleased to learn that a new sidewalk would connect Main Street to the bridge and onto the pedestrian walkway on the west side of the new bridge.
“It will be great to have a safe walkway for people to travel all the way to Main Street,” she said.
The required environmental studies should be complete in March or April, said INDOT spokesman Harry McGinity of the Seymour District Office. INDOT’s Rickie Clark said land appraisals have been ongoing, and land acquisition will begin soon. Construction is expected to begin in 2019 and to be complete in 2020, McGinity said.
• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.
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