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Building the bridge

Field work for Milton-Madison
Bridge project gets under way

On site photo documentation, sonar imaging included

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

Milton-Madison Bridge Project Logo

(August 2009) – As part of the first phase of field work for the Milton-Madison Bridge project, experts traveled to the area during June and July to examine areas that could be impacted by a new bridge or a new superstructure on the existing piers.
After more than a year of work, which has included public meetings and surveys, an online forum and monthly meetings of the Project Advisory Group, the list of alternatives for the bridge project has been narrowed to four possibilities. These are a superstructure replacement using the existing piers, a Tiber Creek hybrid, a Canip Creek hybrid and the “Do Nothing Alternative,” which is required by federal law. This alternative remains to provide a baseline for comparison of other alternatives.
At a Section 106 Process meeting for historic interests, held July 15 at Clifty Inn, Wilbur Smith Associates engineer Tim Sorenson said the final report on the piers had not been released but that the existing piers were found to have more than 80 years of life left. With mitigation, they would support a new superstructure, he added. Only Pier No. 5, the closest one to the Indiana shore, would need to be replaced if a new bridge were to be built on the existing piers.
Using those narrowed alternatives as a guide for the impact area, a research team led by Robert Ball, cultural resources coordinator for Wilbur Smith Associates, conducted an on-the-ground assessment of a large area that could potentially be impacted by a new bridge. The field work is part of the Section 106 Process of the bridge project that requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of any undertakings on properties listed or eligible for listing in the National Register.
Adverse impacts would then have to be mitigated, or resolved, through the process.
Ball, along with photographer Tom Meredith, spent several days walking through downtown Madison, Ind., and Milton, Ky., photo documenting any potential man-made structure that could be impacted by the bridge project. They also conducted on-site interviews with property owners.
“In order to give as fair an assessment as possible, we looked at everything man-made that was over 50 years old,” said Ball. “This included ditches, culverts, walls, barns, sidewalks and buildings.”

Ohio River Sonar Scan

Photo provided

Sonar imaging conducted for the
Milton-Madison Bridge Project
showed a car resting at the
bottom of the Ohio River.

Federal law requires that the “visible effects” of a new bridge on historic properties be taken into account, explained Ball. The boundaries of the Area of Potential Effect, or the area narrowed for the survey, included areas from which the bridge could be seen.
The boundaries of the APE where the field work was conducted were approximately 21/2 miles to the east of the existing bridge, approximately three miles to the west of the bridge, and north and south to include most of the historic districts in both communities.
“We’ve had great local support from the people we’ve interviewed during our work,” said Ball. “Most people are very supportive of a solution to resolve the bridge issue.”
Meredith, an architectural preservation consultant, said the work in Madison was made easier for the team because of the extensive documentation of its historical properties.
They only found a few 19th century homes that were not included in the comprehensive reports that were conducted when Madison became a National Register Historic District.
“Madison is well-documented, which gave us a great head start,” he said.
The results of the field work will be written up into a comprehensive report, which will be available by the fall, said Ball.
Also included in the initial APE field work was an underwater sonar survey of a total of 285 acres of the Ohio River bottom. On July 2, Mainstream Divers dropped a torpedo-looking device over the side of their boat and then slowly navigated a path along a grid on the river guided by GPS.
Ball said the purpose was to examine the river bottom for anything that might impact the project, including sunken vessels or evidence of a potential archaeological site, that would require divers to go down to investigate anything further.
While the final report is not finished, Ball said “nothing major stood out.”
Once a preferred alternative location is selected, more extensive archaeological fieldwork will begin. That work includes examining any possible wetlands, endangered plant or animal species, or possible archaeological sites, said Ball. All of the findings will be used during the Section 106 Process.
An Aug. 31-Sept. 1 workshop-seminar on eligibility for the 106 Process will be conducted at the same location as the July meeting.

• For more information about the Milton-Madison Bridge Project, visit www.MiltonMadisonBridge.com.

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