Building the bridge

Bi-state agreement signed
for study on new Ohio River Bridge

Survey taken to gather information on bridge traffic

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Report

(August 2008) – Kentucky and Indiana have signed an agreement to begin an environmental and preliminary design study for a bridge to replace the 80-year-old Ohio River Bridge that connects Milton, Ky., with Madison, Ind. Wilbur Smith and Associates, a Lexington, Ky., international transportation and infrastructure consulting firm, will conduct the three-year study.


Photo by Don Ward

The Ohio River Bridge, as seen from
this view atop the Jefferson
County Courthouse, is a critical
transportation gateway linking
Madison, Ind., to Milton, Ky.

The study will include “preliminary engineering, environmental studies and public involvement that will result in a preferred grade and roadway geometrics, including a conceptual bridge type selection,” according to Corey Murphy, executive director of Economic Development Partners of Jefferson County. Until recently, the organization was formerly known as Madison-Jefferson County Economic Development Corp but on July 23 announced a name change as part of a new effort to lure business and industry to the county.
This phase of the bridge project is expected to cost approximately $5 million, with each state paying half, officials say. The Kentucky Trans-portation Cabinet is the lead state agency on the project. “I am looking forward to the Wilbur Smith study to begin,” he said.
“This is definitely a move in a positive direction,” said Shannon Hoskins, City of Milton clerk. “There is progress being made on this critical issue for our community; things are happening, but they are just not as clearly visible as we’d like.”
Murphy said that over the last few months there has been a group of local community leaders on both sides of the Ohio River meeting periodically to continue local cooperation and discussion of the regionally important U.S. Hwy. 421 bridge replacement project.

Corey murphy

Corey Murphy

EDP, along with help from area businesses and industry, developed a survey to provide quantitative and qualitative information about the importance of the bridge to the region’s economic health. Murphy said the survey will be used to communicate the importance of the project to decision makers in Frankfort, Ky., Indianapolis and federal officials in Washington, D.C.
The survey was distributed to area businesses earlier in the year, and statistics have been compiled from the results.
“We wanted to show the economic impact the bridge has on our community,” said Hoskins. “We have a critical need for the bridge, and should it become inoperable, the cost for area businesses and workers to find an alternative route would be tremendous.”
The bridge was built by the J.G. White Engineering Co. of New York City in 1928-1929 at a cost of $1,365,101.84. It is the only bridge across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky., to the Markland Dam and Locks Bridge in Vevay, Ind.
Twenty-seven companies from various sectors of the community responded to the bridge survey, including eight from manufacturing and 11 from service and retail operations in the area.
Murphy said the respondents were given the opportunity to rate how the bridge factors with business decisions (1 = Not Important; 5 = Very Important). Out of the companies responding, the average rating was 3.03. When respondents were asked what their cumulative additional business costs would be if the bridge were not available, the responses ranged from “loss of customers,” to “$120,000 a year.”
According to commuting data from Stats Indiana 2006, 429 individuals drive from Kentucky into Jefferson County, Ind., on a daily basis, while 1,183 people drive from Jefferson County to Kentucky. Overall, Jefferson County is an importer of workforce.
A June 2007 traffic count by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet recorded 9,100 vehicles cross the bridge on a daily basis.
“The survey confirmed that the U.S. 421 bridge plays a vital role in the area’s economy,” said Murphy. “And with the nearest river crossing 26 miles away, the recent increase in fuel prices would magnify the impact of not having the bridge.”
Hoskins said the survey will be circulated among state representatives for information. “Area officials and leaders have done a remarkable job of cooperating on this project because of the serious and critical nature of it. We need to make sure we continue to work together as a single community with a unified voice to get this project done.”

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