Getting the word
now faced with challenge
of educating public on a 10-day closure
(December 2010) When is the Milton-Madison Bridge
That question permeates much of the region, even though a decision was
made in early October by Indiana Department of Transportation to hire
a design-build team that plans to only shut down the bridge for a total
of 10 days during the nearly two-year, $103 million bridge replacement
Problem is, no one knows that.
by Don Ward
public groundbreaking was held
Tuesday, Nov. 30, setting the two-year
bridge replacement project in motion.
Local officials welcomed governors
from Indiana and Kentucky and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray
LaHood to Madison to officially
begin the $103 million project.
Folks as far away as Louisville and Indianapolis and Cincinnati
still think that bridge is going to be closed for up to a year. They
have likely decided not to travel to Madison during that time because
of the impending inconvenience.
You cant blame them, considering thats all theyve
heard for the past two years as meeting after meeting was held to discuss
alternative sites for building a new bridge, and then more meetings
were held to instead discuss building a bridge on the existing piers
due to budgetary constraints. The latter decision meant the existing
bridge would likely have to be shut down for up to a year while a ferry
service would carry traffic back and forth between Madison, Ind., and
The business communities on both sides of the Ohio River have been bracing
for the worst as January 2011 approached. And despite a two-vessel,
24-hour, free ferry service to be operated at a cost of $5 million,
no one really knew what to expect in terms of crossing time especially
during work and school rush hours.
Now as a Nov. 30 groundbreaking ceremony approaches, a huge sigh of
relief has been settling across the region as word slowly spreads about
the engineering miracle that is about to occur here. Walsh Construction
Co. of La Porte, Ind., has teamed with Buckland & Taylor Ltd. of
Vancouver, B.C. and designer Burgess & Niple Engineers of Columbus,
Ohio, to develop a unique approach to replacing the 80-year-old structure
that first opened in December 1929 during the Model T era. In recent
years, the bridge has supported nearly 10,000 vehicles a day, including
hundreds of heavily loaded semi-trucks, and has been rehabilitated twice
to help extend its life. State inspectors have declared it structurally
deficient and functionally obsolete.
The plan calls for building a temporary bridge 15 feet downriver from
the existing structure, then diverting traffic onto it while the old
bridge is dismantled and a new superstructure is built atop the existing
piers. Then traffic will be rerouted back onto the new bridge. Contractors
plan to close the bridge for only five days in spring 2011 to reroute
traffic to the temporary bridge, and close for another five days near
the end of the project in late 2012 to slide the new bridge superstructure
into place atop the existing but modernized piers. This engineering
feat will involve a fleet of barges, tugboats, hydraulic jacks and mooring
anchors and likely draw a huge crowd of spectators. The innovative
project to replace the 3,181-foot-long superstructure received a $20
million federal grant last February, with the remaining cost to be shared
by both states. The project must be completed by September 2012, making
it the fastest bridge ever to be built over the Ohio River.
Governors and dignitaries from both Kentucky and Indiana, along with
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood, are expected to attend the
11 a.m. groundbreaking event along the riverfront near Riverboat Inn
to officially launch the history-making project. The project itself
already has attracted the attention of several engineering magazines
and architects who want to see how this project will be undertaken.
While it has been done before, such a bridge sliding project has never
been conducted on this magnitude, according to bridge consultants assisting
in the effort.
Five design-build teams bid on the project, and the four losing bidders
fully intended to use the full year bridge closure method. Only the
winning bidder offered such a revolutionary approach to closing the
bridge only 10 total days. Using a formula to calculate the economic
impact averted due to the short closure time, the winning bid of $103
million also reduced the overall cost by roughly 20 percent, officials
Of course, the dramatic change in closure time forced bridge consultants
to revisit the legally binding, 16-page agreement the Memoranda
of Agreement or MOA. This document already had been signed by all parties
at various government levels. It spells out how much money will be provided
to the local communities of Madison and Milton to offset any negative
economic impacts experienced during the project.
Now a Dec. 7 meeting has been scheduled at Clifty Inn to review the
agreement. At that meeting it will be determined whether Madison will
still receive nearly a quarter-million dollars in bridge marketing funds
and Milton will receive $40,000. Another $80,000 had been set aside
for Madison Main Street Program over two years and $80,000 more to hire
a Historic Preservation Officer over a two-year span. A determination
about whether a ferry service is needed also will be addressed.
Officials with the project indicate that the money will still be provided,
even with the short bridge closure. That message comes as a relief to
I will be asking that they give us the same dollars as we were
going to get with a full year bridge closure because now, even though
the bridge wont be closing for a year, we still need to get the
word out that the bridge will not be closed for a long period of time,
said Linda Lytle, executive director of the Madison Area Convention
and Visitors Bureau. We will have to market against that because
we are still getting calls here at the tourism office about the bridge
being closed. Weve got to start now getting the word out, but
we cant spend any money until the amended agreement is approved.
Jan Vetrhus, who heads a Bridge Mitigation Committee made up of representatives
from various agencies in Madison, said she has been told the money will
be there. We are confident that we will receive the monetary support
we need to continue with our plans to help the community get through
this bridge project, especially considering the economically hard times
we are in. There are many positives to come out of this, the biggest
being that our bridge will not in fact be closed for a year.
Consultants with the project marvel at the fact that the bridge project,
in the end, may not have such a huge economic impact on the region as
previously thought but that the communities involved may still get to
keep the money as if it would.
Given those facts and the mere novelty of this ambitious bridge replacement
project thats about to begin, Tuesdays gathering at the
Madison riverfront will truly be a groundbreaking event
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner
of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.
Back to the Milton-Madison Bridge Article