Milton, Madison survive
a longterm bridge closure?
bridge replacement is only hope
for getting any new bridge at all, officials say
"Kentucky and Indiana transportation officials
jointly propose replacing the superstructure on
the existing piers and applying for a $95 million
federal economic stimulus grant to help pay for it. To
do so would require closing the bridge for up to one year,
beginning in January 2011. A free ferry service would
transport traffic across the Ohio River."
Konnie McCollum and Don Ward
(September 2009) For more than 20 years, Madison,
Ind.s Fabric and Embroidery Shop has flourished during economic
prosperity and weathered economic downturns. Owner Hurley Adams attributes
more than 20 percent of his business to customers traveling from the
south across the Milton-Madison Bridge. But one of the biggest challenges
for survival for Adams and other local merchants may lie ahead if a
federal grant is secured this winter that would put in motion a bridge
replacement project that would close access to Kentucky for a year or
If they close the bridge, its bound to hurt, Adams
On the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, Old Town Family Restaurant owner
Wayne Beard serves many Madison residents. He said he would hate to
lose that business should the bridge be shut down. Beard has attended
all seven PAG meetings held in recent months. He is angry because, like
many area residents, he believed the meetings were designed to select
the best location to construct a new bridge. They wanted us to
get involved. I feel like the public had no say so, and they misled
Beard says his restaurant will weather the storm, but he
worries that the bridge closure will be a tremendous burden on young
commuters already under strained budgets. I just dont think
this is the right answer.
Business owners on both sides of the Ohio River are worried that a recent
proposal by the bridge study group to use the existing piers for a new
bridge superstructure rather than construct a totally new bridge will
destroy the local economy. Commuters, meanwhile, will have to find another
route or option for getting to work or wait in line to cross the river
aboard a free ferry service. Shoppers will find new places to buy groceries
and goods that do not involve crossing the river. Farmers will have
to find new places or routes to market their grain and tobacco or to
purchase large equipment without crossing the river.
by Don Ward
80-year-old Ohio River Bridge
connecting Milton, Ky., to Madison,
Ind., is considered the glue that holds
the local economy together. Many
residents fear that shutting it down
for a year or more to replace the
superstructure on the existing piers
will kill local businesses. But
communities that have gone
through such a bridge replacement
process say it can work and that
businesses will survive.
If they close that bridge, its going to kill
us, said Trimble County farmer Wayne Alexander. It will
definitely kill Milton. People dont realize it yet, but they will
soon. And you know its going to take a lot longer than 12 months
to build a bridge.
The nearest bridge crossings are 26 miles upriver at Markland Dam and
46 miles downriver in Louisville.
For weeks now residents have debated the merits of the Kentucky Transportation
Cabinet and Indiana Department of Transportations proposal announced
Aug. 13 to build a new superstructure on the existing bridge piers between
Milton and Madison. The plan hinges on obtaining a $95 million federal
grant to fund the $131 million project. The balance of the cost would
be paid by each state but that does not include any money to address
the roadway approaches to the bridge on either side. Those issues will
be up to the respective cities and states.
Officials say the proposal was reached based on affordability, timing,
environmental impacts and the condition of the existing bridge.
By comparison, the two Tiber Creek alternatives for a new bridge are
estimated to cost between $189 million and $199 million. The Canip Creek
location alternative is estimated at $219 million.
More than a year of environmental studies and community, state and federal
agency input have led to this decision as the fastest and most
cost-effective way to connect U.S. 421 between Milton and Madison,
officials say. They must apply for the grant, part of the federal governments
economic stimulus package, by Sept. 15. They will be awarded in January
We feel it is the best approach to follow in the next few months,
said project manager John Carr. This is an opportunity to get
money that is currently not available in either states six-year
planning budget and may not be available for some time. We need to take
advantage of this.
it would work
If approved, the bridge would be closed in January 2011
for up to 12 months while a new superstructure, similar to the current
one, is erected on the 80-year-old existing piers. Experts agree that
the piers are capable of lasting for another 80 years.
During the superstructure replacement, construction would begin in spring
2010 with periodic lane and bridge closures. In January 2011, the bridge
would be closed completely for up to 12 months while the old superstructure
is removed and the new one erected. Two ferries would shuttle commuters
back and forth and operate 24-hours a day. The ferry service would be
free paid for through the grant.
by Don Ward
conducted on the
concrete bridge piers
showed that they
can stand another 80
years, officials say.
The new bridge would be 40 foot wide, with two 12-foot-wide
automotive traffic lanes, eight-foot-wide shoulders and a separated
pedestrian-bicycle walkway. The current bridge is only 20 feet wide
with 10-foot-wide travel lanes and no shoulders.
The piers would be widened into a Y-shape to support the wider road.
The pier closest to the Indiana side would be replaced with a new pier
that would be placed on land about 40 feet inland from its existing
The proposed action for the Milton-Madison Bridge Project,
headed by consultants Wilbur Smith Associates, was announced during
an Aug. 13 meeting of the Project Advisory Group. Responses to the announcement
ranged from wary to accepting. Most PAG members agreed that the proposed
action was not what they had wanted, but they were willing to support
the initiative if it resulted in a new and safe bridge that could be
in place as early as Feb. 2012. PAG member Corey Murphy, executive director
of Economic Development Partners of Jefferson County (Ind.), called
for a vote to support the action after Carr said public support was
important. All but two PAG members voted to support the proposed action.
Youd better sell this idea now because its not going
to go with the public, said Milton resident Shirley Hamilton,
who sat in the audience during the meeting.
At first, I would have been very strongly against a superstructure
replacement, said PAG member Ronnie Barnes, Milton, Ky.s
fire chief. I never thought Id live to see a new bridge
built, but now Im actually encouraged by this.
We are balancing this sudden money with the possibility that money
may not be here for five to seven years or longer, said PAG member
and Madison resident Veterinarian Kevin Watkins. I cant
see not pursuing this; however, this is not my ideal situation.
Several PAG members questioned why the grant money couldnt
be used to fund one of the alternatives for a new bridge alignment.
Carr said time and right-of-way acquisitions and relocation are factors
against the grant money being used for a new bridge. He also said that
right-of-way issues can take years to resolve. In the meantime, the
bridge continues to deteriorate at a pace faster than was originally
by Don Ward
state-hired bridge inspector
dangles from ropes over the side
of the Milton-Madison Bridge in
August while conducting a
report on recent repairs.
The bridge is no longer sick, its almost on
life support, he said. If we have to wait for funding to
become available and resolve property rights issues, the bridge may
have to undergo more major repairs that could close it for 18-24 months.
That will be a longer impact than a closure for the superstructure replacement.
According to project documents, a new bridge at Canip Creek would involve
more than 95 properties with right-of-way issues. Tiber Creek Alternative
A would affect up to 73 properties, while Tiber Creek Alternative B
would affect 95 properties. A Superstructure Replacement with Full Approaches
could cost $167 million but would affect 49 properties. Many of the
properties for each of the alternatives are within historic landmark
districts and are contributing properties or are possibly eligible for
historic status. There are no properties affected by the superstructure
replacement with minimal approaches, although the bridge itself is eligible
for historic status.
PAG member Peter Woodburn asked what happens if the project is not granted
the money. Carr said it will continue on, and the other alternatives
would be considered.
Other PAG members asked how final the proposed action was. Its
as final as it can be at this point, said Carr. We still
have to finish NEPA the Section 106 Process of the National Historic
Preservation Act, but we are not foreseeing anything to change the minds
of all the officials who make the final decision.
are going to suffer adverse effects, no doubt."
Trimble County Judge-Executive Randy Stevens
Dave Walker, of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said
that the Kentucky State Historic Preservation Officer understands the
problems and concerns with the superstructure replacement, but has no
plans to object to it.
I made the comment at a previous meeting that the superstructure
replacement has been a done deal, said Milton resident Joe Wentworth.
Youve done a good job of campaigning and convincing people
that wasnt so.
Carr said project officials from the start had tried to bring transparency
to the project.
We put our reputations on the line every day, said Wilbur
Smith engineer Tim Sorenson. Weve done everything we can
to be honest.
You did surveys and got comments from the public. Id like
to know how many people agreed to build on the existing piers,
said area resident Mike Beard at the PAG meeting. This goes against
public comment, and I worry about the true strength of those piers.
Sorenson said extensive testing was conducted on the piers and that
they were safe.
In an April 2009 interview with RoundAbout Madison, Bart Asher, a civil
engineer in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinets Division of Structural
Design-Geotechnical Branch, explained that the reuse of foundations
from one bridge to the next has been a fairly common practice. Although
many people believe that state government transportation departments
have deep pockets, we are also struggling to do more with less funding,
just like everyone else. Revitalization or reuse of all or part of an
existing structure is an important tool.
He said one thing people need to keep in mind is that historically,
a good mixture of concrete actually gains strength over time.
Aaron Stover, a civil engineer at Michael Baker Corp, another firm working
in collaboration on the bridge project, said the idea of replacing the
superstructure of a bridge on existing piers is not new to Ohio River
Two projects, the Sewickley Bridge, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pa.,
and the Williamstown Bridge, over the Ohio River between Williamstown
W.V., and Marietta, Ohio, have already been completed.
Our company is currently involved with several projects in Connecticut
and Pennsylvania where the superstructure is being replaced, he
said. We have also completed similar project in Pennsylvania and
Ohio within the last five years.
Stover noted that the Sewickley Bridge and the Williamstown Bridge piers
were 70 and 90 years old, respectively, when their superstructures were
replaced. Both bridges are still in service today.
We understand this is not going to be pain free,
said Carr. This is the best opportunity, however, to have a new
bridge in a timely manner. We plan to plow full speed ahead on this
During the 1997 rehabilitation, the Fabric Shops
Adams was forced to turn his marketing toward the north to make up for
his lost customers from the south. He advertised in Seymour. He also
marketed to potential customers in Dayton, Ohio, and Columbus, Ohio.
I went for markets with larger populations, he said. I
am always looking at ways to reach more customers.
Surprisingly, Adams said he ended up taking in more money than he lost
during the 1997 rehabilitation project. Much of his new customer base
comes from the exotic dancer industry in the larger cities. He now carries
specialty fabrics and sewing supplies that the dancers cannot find in
other fabric shops.
Adams is not happy with the decision to do a superstructure replacement
for the bridge. He believes a new bridge should be put on another alignment
and the current bridge should be used for a pedestrian walkway.
He is prepared, however, to once again shift his marketing strategy
to accommodate the year-long closure that is anticipated for the project.
Ive owned businesses across this region, and Ive been
very successful, he said. Business owners have to be creative
and figure out how to get around this.
Madison gets 25 percent of its tourists from the south, according to
Linda Lytle, executive director of the Madison Area Convention and Visitors
Bureau. A bridge shutdown is going to definitely make a difference,
she said. Many businesses are already struggling. I am worried
that business is going to be affected more than what we believe.
bridge is no longer sick; its on life support."
Bridge Project Manager John Carr
However, her office is already studying ways to change
its marketing strategy to areas north of Madison and possibly use the
ferry service to its advantage.
We are going to work around this situation and look at the positive,
she said. Weve dealt with other burdens, and we will survive
this one, too.
Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong said the superstructure action is not his
ideal solution, but because of the situation with time, money and the
deteriorating condition of the bridge, he believes the action is a great
opportunity. We need a bridge, he said. Yes there
is going to be economic pain for the short term, but in the long haul,
we will get a new bridge.
His administration is set to work with other area officials and businesses
to devise plans to minimize the economic burden that will be placed
on the community.
Trimble County Judge-Executive Randy Stevens said he had mixed
emotions on the proposed action. To go the more preferred
route of a new bride on a new alignment would put the time line and
expenses way out there, he said. In the meantime, the bridge
could be condemned or worse. This is the quickest and financially responsible
He is not looking forward to the closure of the bridge but said it may
be a small price to pay for a new bridge. We are going to suffer
adverse effects no doubt. Those are hollow words for someone whose business
closes because of this, but no matter what route was chosen, people
are going to be greatly affected.
He said he is ready to work with officials from across the region and
businesses to mitigate the economic pain for the community. He said
one possibility would be to ask businesses to stagger start and stop
times so commuters will not have to wait in long lines at the ferries.
Well do anything we can to help, he said. While
this may not be the best situation, is may be the realization of something
weve been talking about for 30 years.
He said his community is working on plans to immediately go to the Kentucky
Transportation Cabinet and get money already attached to the project
re-allocated to fix the approach to the bridge. There will be
$15 million left on the table for the approaches, and we need to keep
moving this forward.
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