plans $67 million
new bridge to span Ohio River
(July 2001) Madison, In It doesnt
have a fancy name or bright lights or even a big sign
announcing to passersby its existence.
But for 72 years, it has stood as a silent,
sturdy reminder of American ingenuity during one of the
countrys lowest economic times, the Great Depression.
In fact, the 72-year-old Ohio River Bridge, spanning the
narrow river channel between Milton, Ky. and Madison,
Ind., has been photographed and painted and sketched so
many times, it has become part of the natural landscape.
Like the Broadway Fountain and Hanging Rock Hill, the
Ohio River Bridge ranks as an obligatory subject for any
local landscape artists portfolio. The bridge even
made a cameo appearance in the opening scene of the 1959
movie, Some Came Running, and can be seen
in film clips of the yet-to-be-released hydroplane movie
Madison, shot on location in 1999.
Perhaps the greatest tribute to this man-made marvel,
however, is the trust motorists place in the bridges
steel beams and concrete floor each time they cross.
Recent discussions about the future of this old war horse
or the construction of a future bridge have generated
emotional reactions from both sides of the river. As is
the case with such monstrous projects, those discussions
and meetings with local officials have generated much
alarm and confusion among some residents especially
among those likely to affected by a new bridge.
Kentucky, which owns the bridge and river, released a
study in 1995 that presented three options rehabilitate
the existing bridge, build a new bridge at the end of
Jefferson Street in Madison or build a new, $55 million,
2.8-mile bridge 50 to 100 feet east of the
Last year, state transportation officials decided to go
with the third option, based on its short length,
lowest total cost and community support, the study
said. It also crosses the least amount of farmland and
low amounts of floodplain.
So when U.S. Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana requested a meeting
with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials in April
to review the 1995 plan, the fires of emotion were rekindled.
There wasnt anything new discussed at that
meeting that wasnt in the states Six-Year
Highway Plan or that was released in the 1995 study. Its
not even an active project, but when you talk about a
new bridge, it always gets people excited, said
John Callihan, a Transportation Cabinet planning branch
manager who made the presentation April 24 in Madison
to city, county and state officials from both states.
Callihan says it is too early to begin speculating about
who might be affected by a future bridge. More than $5.5
million was made available for design alone in Kentuckys
current Six-Year Highway Plan. The plan is updated every
two years with the next update to be approved by the Legislature
in spring 2002. That design money wont be used until
fiscal year 2005, which begins in October 2004, he said.
Callihan expects more money to be earmarked in next years
update of the Six-Year Plan for right-of-way acquisition.
The project would still require several years and millions
more to complete utility relocation and construction.
Using 1995 dollars (not adjusted for todays inflation),
the project had a price tag of $67.340 million, including
Callihan estimated that under current projections, officials
could enter the design phase of a four-lane bridge in
fiscal year 2005, begin right-of-way acquisition in 2007,
begin utility work in 2008 and begin construction in 2010.
It would likely take two years to complete, extending
the calendar to 2012 at the earliest.
A preliminary map in the 1995 study shows the bridge going
in between Tiber Creek Hollow and the existing bridge
in downtown Milton. The new road would then swing straight
up the hill east of the existing road, cross McCord Lane
on the hilltop and connect to Hwy. 421 one-half mile east
of the Milton Lions Club curve.
On the Indiana side, the study called for crossing into
Madison just east of Hwy. 421 and connecting directly
with Hwy. 56.
Just because we have a map doesnt mean thats
where the road will go, Callihan cautioned. And
we dont know for sure how it would hook up with
Hwy 56 in Madison. But it is unlikely that you would turn
left on Second Street and then turn again to get to Main
Street like it does now.
He said the proposed corridor on the map could
vary as much as 100 feet to either side. Furthermore,
the land acquisition alone would take at least two years
to complete and the money would have to be found for the
This is a major financial commitment for the state
of Kentucky, and how we work out the funding is a big
question, Callihan said.
Though many homes and businesses would be affected by
a new bridge and roadway, most area residents say they
must wait for more details before getting excited.
I havent really seen any plans on this, but
(the projected location) is obviously a place the bridge
needs to go, said Milton resident and business owner
Bob Rowlett. If you relocate, where do you relocate?
Weve been saying 10 years (for a new bridge) for
30 years. I wonder if well live that long.
Milton businessman Kenny McCoy said, I doubt if
Ill even live that long to see a new bridge, and
if I do, Ill probably be too old to care where it
Madison dentist Bob Canida, who lives 180 feet from the
path of the projected new bridge site, said, I think
anyone who lives where they live wouldnt want the
bridge to run through. If it is for the benefit of the
city, well do what we need to do. Sometimes, its
tough to separate personal bias from overall wisdom.
Any new bridge is several years away, that is the only
thing thats for certain. As Callihan explained,
We were simply asked to come over to Madison and
answer questions about the current Six-Year plan. We are
not ready to handle questions from the public, but we
want people to know that the Transportation Cabinet is
committed to the new bridge, and we know it needs to be
replaced. But we cant tell people whose homes might
As far as the future of the existing bridge, Callihan
said the state has no intention of maintaining two
bridges. He added that the old bridge may be handed
over to local officials for use as a walking bridge or
else it may be dismantled.
Our objective is to replace this bridge because
the lanes are too narrow, and it is functionally obsolete
by todays traffic standards.
For more information on future road projects
and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinets Six-Year
Highway Plan, visit the website: www.kytc.state.ky.us.