Building the bridge

Superstructure replacement
is the best bridge option, officials say

Summer safety inspection
gives bridge poor rating

By Konnie McCollum
Staff writer

(October 2009) – adison-Milton Bridge consultants say a superstructure replacement is the best alternative to addressing the aging bridge problem because it is the most cost-effective and quickest way to creating a new crossing.

Bridge Inspection

Photo by Don Ward

The Milton-Madison Bridge will
undergo a superstructure
replacement on the existing piers in
2011 if a federal grant is approved in
January 2010. State workers inspected
the bridge (above) in September.

Business owners, citizens and elected officials gathered to voice support and criticism of the proposed action of the Milton-Madison Bridge Project at a public meeting on Sept. 10 at the new Milton Elementary School. Criticism of the superstructure replacement proposal centered on economic concerns, while support centered on the idea that the communities could have a safe, reliable new bridge in as little as two years.
More than 200 people listened as project leaders gave a short explanation as to why the proposed action was the best course of action to take for the project.
“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 state’s six-year planning budget and may not be available for some time. We need to take advantage of this.”
Project officials had until Sept. 15 to apply for a $95 million federal grant, which surprised the community when it was announced in August. The grant money being applied for is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or economic stimulus funds. Under the terms of the Transportation Infra-structure Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, completion of the entire project, including construction, must be done by Feb. 2012. Kentucky and Indiana have agreed to split the additional money needed to complete the $131 million superstructure replacement. The money will be awarded in Jan. 2010.

Bridge facts submitted with
TIGER Grant appplication

• Bridge facts submitted with the TIGER Grant application
• Without the bridge, the existing traffic would make an additional 450,000 vehicle miles of travel and 4,000 vehicle hours of travel daily.
• Maintaining the Milton-Madison (US 421) Bridge results in as much as 6 million gallons of fuel saved annually and annual carbon reductions of 53,000 metric tons.
• With a total cost of $131 million, the project is expected to create 1,424 jobs, which includes 911 direct-indirect and 513 induced jobs.
• The project will provide travel efficiency benefits of about $100 million per year in mileage and time savings (as opposed to no bridge at the existing location).

If the project receives the funds, the bridge will be shut down in 2011 when the 80-year-old superstructure is replaced with a brand new one. The new superstructure will be built and attached to the existing piers, which experts agree are capable of lasting for another 80 years.
The bridge will be closed completely for up to 12 months while the old superstructure is torn off and the new one put on. Ferries will shuttle commuters back and forth and will operate 24-hours a day. The ferry service will be free of charge. Officials are still working out the details for the ferry service.
The proposed action for the superstructure replacement comes as the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet announced on Sept. 17 that the Aug. 2009 in-depth inspection of the bridge indicated more repair work is needed on the bridge, and that further analysis will be needed before it is determined whether the 15-ton weight limit can be removed.
The bridge has had an overall “poor” rating since January 2009. An inspection conducted in December 2008 revealed a need for repair work on some gusset plates.
“The report is not surprising,” said David Steele, KYTC Engineer for Bridge Preservation. “It confirms what we suspected; the Milton-Madison Bridge is deteriorating and needs to be replaced.”
“I didn’t like the idea of the superstructure replacement at first,” said Markt Lytle, a former Madison mayor and state representative. While in office during the 1980s, Lytle worked with other area officials to get something done about the deteriorating bridge. He said at that time, our bridge was treated as a “stepchild” to the Louisville, Ky., bridges. “When you think about it, it makes sense to apply for this grant. Officials would wonder why we didn’t apply for it.”
Lytle also asked if there was any mitigation possible for economic impact.
“We are looking at mitigation for economic impact,” said Tim Sorenson, deputy project manager for Wilbur, Smith Associates, the lead consultants on the project. “We have economists trying to figure out the economic impact of the bridge closure.”
During a Sept. 17 online forum through the project’s website, www.Milton
MadisonBridge.com, the management team said economic study results would be finished in Dec. 2009.
Concerned citizen Nancy Gaines was worried that older workers, factory workers and children would particularly suffer if the bridge is closed for up to a year for the superstructure replacement.
“We aren’t a big community. Why didn’t officials start the money process years ago?” she asked. “If people lose their jobs, who cares if we have a new bridge?”
“I’m in favor of superstructure replacement if funds are available now,” said Ripley County, Ind., resident Herman Stromf, who argued that the bridge project is a regional one that affects many more counties and communities than Milton and Madison. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. We can plan for a bridge closure now, but an unplanned closure would be tougher.” He also suggested officials request enough ferry service to accommodate the bridge traffic.
Madison resident Camille Fife asked for information about other superstructure replacement projects that actually worked and were finished.
Aaron Stover, a civil engineer at Michael Baker Corp, another firm working in collaboration on the bridge project, responded with several examples said these types of superstructure projects are not new, and that there were several being completed across the nation.
The question was also asked as to why the project was being conducted if there was not enough money to start with in the two state’s budget to complete it.
“We would do the project’s environmental and design study, and find a solution to build eventually down the road,” said Sorenson.
During the online forum, the bridge project management team said if the TIGER grant funds are not approved, “We will still move forward with the proposed action for the superstructure replacement.”
Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong delivered a short speech in support of the proposed action. He urged the combined communities to support the action, and for people to take politics out of the decision-making process.
He also addressed areas of contention about the process that had come to his attention.
In response to questions about the credibility of the process, he said “Numerous public meetings have been held and minutes of these meetings have been posted on the project’s website.
He also addressed concerns about “behind the scenes” negotiating. “It is perfectly normal and accepted practice for federal, state and local government officials to communicate by virtue of their positions in helping to determine realistic outcomes based upon resources and capabilities.
He listed numerous elected leaders from both Kentucky and Indiana who support the proposed action of the project, including Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), U.S. Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), Kentucky State Rep. Rick Rand, Indiana State Rep. David Cheatham, Trimble County Judge-Executive Randy Stevens, and former Madison Mayor Al Huntington.
Rand, who serves the Milton area, said he has worked since 1991 to get a new bridge in the area. “The most important question people ask me is when are we going to get a new bridge,” he said. “I’ve worked for four governors, and now we are actually talking about building the bridge.”
He called the comments of the concerned citizens “great and well thought out,” but said, “Revenue is in the tank, and the state of Kentucky can’t afford to build a bridge. It is very difficult to predict what will happen in the future.”

Back to October 2009 Articles.



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