a piece of history
explores pedestrian use
of Milton-Madison Bridge
pushes use of
old bridge when new one is built
In 1872, a railroad bridge across the Ohio River connecting
Newport, Ky., and Cincinnati was opened. The bridge was later renovated
to accommodate automobile traffic. In 1904, the bridge was renamed the
Louisville and Nashville Railroad Bridge, and it remained open to railroad
traffic until 1987.
by Emily Ward
Bridge was built in
1929 and is considered functionally
obsolete by the
state of Kentucky.
It was closed to automobile traffic in Oct. 2001 after
years of neglect and deterioration.
On April 17, 2001, the L&N Railroad Bridge was listed on the National
Register of Historic Places. In late 2001, the city of Newport and economic
development group Southbank Partners used $4 million in state funds
to restore the bridge to a pedestrian walkway.
Today, the Purple People Bridge, as it is fondly referred to because
of its color, is the longest pedestrian bridge in the country that links
two states. It is 2,670 foot long and has become a major attraction
for thousands of people each year who visit the area for dining, shopping,
night life, festivals and sporting events.
George Freeman, former operator of WIKI Radio, has envisioned the same
concept for the Milton-Madison Bridge across the Ohio River. For more
than a decade he has championed the idea that a similar pedestrian-bicycle
adaptive reuse of the bridge would be a boon to the local communities.
He has also proposed a new bridge at a different location include an
overlook that could be used as a tourist draw to the area.
Now that the three-year, $5 million environmental and design study is
being conducted for a possible new bridge, he says it is time for local
officials and the community at large to get behind the concept.
We can make the bridge an economic opportunity instead of a liability,
he said. They are doing it in so many other communities.
Freeman has proposed the idea of turning the existing bridge into a
historic tourism and economic opportunity to Milton-Madison Bridge project
officials during monthly Project Advisory Group meetings and gave a
speech about it during the Madison Bicentennial Celebrations Chautauqua
Weve sent around petitions that hundreds of people have
signed, and we already have organizations and individuals coming on
board with the idea, he said.
In Chattanooga, Tenn., the 2,376-foot span Walnut Street Bridge, built
in 1890, was closed to vehicles in 1978. It sat in disuse and disrepair
for almost a decade. It took $4.5 million to restore the structure,
which is now the centerpiece of a massive urban renewal project. It
has become one of the most popular recreation spots in the southern
city, which spends about $2 million annually to maintain and secure
Freeman believes a bridge renewal project like this for the local community
could be funded through a combination of private and foundation donations
and through a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities. The proposed
overlook on the new bridge could also help with the funding, as well,
Some of those entrepreneurial possibilities include naming rights, admission
charges, and business opportunities for retailers, vendors and others
on the bridge.
The City of San Antonio applied for and received a $2.89 million Transportation
Enhance-ment through the Texas Department of Transportation to rehabilitate
and turn a historic bridge in that community into a bicycle and pedestrian
facility. The Hays St. Bridge was permanently barricaded and closed
to vehicular traffic in July 1982 because it was deemed structurally
Of course, any plan would need to be very specific,
but now is the time to get our ducks in a row, he said. This
could be a wonderful legacy and asset for the community.
One entrepreneur, J.G. White, made the money to build the bridge
in the first place, when the states couldnt, said Freeman.
You simply have to have the will, and the power structure needs
to be in place.
Whites engineering company incorporated the National Toll Bridge
Co. particularly to finance three bridges, the Milton-Madison Bridge,
and two Missouri River bridges at Hermann, and another at Courtney.
The Milton-Madison Bridge is the only one of the trio that survives
Rich Murray, president of Cornerstone Society, a local affiliate of
Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, said while his organization
is not officially involved yet, We are supportive of any effort
to retain the historic bridge.
He said two major concerns the proposed plan would have are obviously
funding issues and population concerns. Other bridges that have
been successfully re-used in this manner have larger population bases.
His organization has taken a wait and see stance until the
final location of the proposed new bridge is announced. The replacement
bridge on the existing piers is still one of the alternatives,
he said. We have to see what the final decision on that is.
Officials with the Milton-Madison Bridge project have said the Kentucky
Transportation Cabinet and Indiana Department of Transportation will
only fund one bridge across the river.
During a public online forum in June hosted by the Milton-Madison Bridge
Project team members, Link Ludington of the Indiana Department of Natural
Resources Historic Sites unit asked if there had been any estimate
made of the amount of mitigation funds that could be made available
to another entity that might be interested in taking over the existing
bridge for redevelopment in the event is it abandoned by the KYTC. He
also asked what sorts of parameters would there be for evaluating the
eligibility of the entity and the viability of such a project.
The existing location has not been ruled out at this sate, therefore
we have not considered what may happen with the existing bridge if we
construct at a new location, said team members.
I have high hopes that more people will get involved as we move
along, said Freeman.
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