Race Against Time

New 3-ton limit adds pain
to bridge construction delays

Inspector says existing bridge
could be closed early

"That bridge is in severely poor condition
and getting worse. It has served its use; it has
served its time. It’s worn out and needs to be replaced.
– David Steele, KYTC bridge inspector

By Don Ward

2012 April Edition Cover

2012 April Edition Cover

(April 2012) – Michael Barnes of Barnes Oil in Milton, Ky., is used to driving back and forth across the Milton-Madison Bridge several times a day to deliver diesel fuel and other petroleum products to farmers, factories and residential and commercial customers in southern Indiana. In fact, he estimates nearly 75 percent of his business is in Indiana.
But with the March 14 lowering of the weight limit from 15 tons to three tons by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Barnes’ business, like many others in the Ohio River Valley, have been severely impacted. Not only is he having to drive two hours round trip to cross the Ohio River at Markland Dam, located 26 miles upstream past Vevay, Ind., the recent increase in gas prices to more than $4 a gallon “is killing me,” he says.
He has been getting up at 3 a.m. to start his deliveries. “I can’t pass that extra cost on to my customers or they will leave me. I am just hoping people will be patient and work with me. I am not behind schedule yet, but I am coming and going all the time. It will work out, but it’s just going to be rough for a while.”
Despite the rising costs and the extra time it takes to serve his customers, Barnes, like others, is determined to outlast this temporary setback and survive until December when motorists are to be rerouted onto the new bridge truss to be mounted at first on temporary piers. This new, 2,400-foot-long steel truss will allow a return to a 15-ton weight limit on vehicles but will prohibit large vehicles and semi-trucks because of the tight, 90-degree turns required to get onto the bridge at each end.

Tentative Construction

• April 25-29: First bridge closure
• June 2012: First bridge truss span lift  
• August 2012: Second bridge truss span lift  
• Late December 2012: Traffic shifts to new bridge truss on temporary piers
• January 2013: Demolition of existing bridge truss begins
• Spring 2013: Second closure and new Milton-Madison Bridge opens to traffic  

Five-Day Bridge Closure
Traffic Plan

During the planned bridge closure, Walsh Construction Co. will work around the clock to remove the existing bridge approaches and connect temporary ramps in Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind.

• In Madison, the intersection of Hwy. 56 and Ferry Street will convert to a three-way stop.
• A three-way stop will be placed at Ferry Street and Vaughn Drive in Madison.
• In Milton, northbound traffic from U.S. Hwy. 421 onto the temporary ramp leading to the bridge will be free-flowing with no stop signs.
• There will be a stop sign at the end of the temporary ramp in Milton for southbound traffic.
• There will be a stop sign for vehicles traveling from the Milton boat ramp onto Ferry Street.
• Ferry service will be provided during the closure to transport emergency services vehicles across the Ohio River. The Milton boat ramp will be closed for public access during this time.
• The stop at KY Hwy. 36 for southbound traffic from Ferry Street in Milton will be maintained as it is now.

The 83-year-old superstructure, which long ago was “declared structurally deficient and functionally obsolete” by engineers, will then be removed from the existing piers by demolition explosives and hauled to a scrapyard. Once the new truss is slid into place atop the refurbished and strengthened existing concrete piers and open to traffic, there will be no weight or truck restrictions. The new bridge is projected to open to traffic in spring 2013.
Andrea Clifford, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in Louisville, said continuous enforcement of a bridge weight limit is rare but has been used in the past in some instances. Given the rapidly deteriorating condition of the Milton-Madison Bridge, she said officials wanted to use enforcement to get the word out quickly and put some force into the new weight restriction.
“We knew that there was an issue with trucks continuing to cross the structure, and monitoring was necessary to try and prevent that overweight traffic from using the bridge,” Clifford said. “We also have posted speed limits all over the state but do not have cops on every street, road and intersection. There is a general expectation that people will obey the law. But we always have some cops somewhere.”
She added that the state has used “targeted enforcement” in some areas, and she cited one example as the Ledbetter Bridge in western Kentucky. “There was a need to enforce the weight restriction on that bridge in order to avert potential tragedy.”
Meanwhile, Kentucky has allocated $60,000 to fund the 24-hour enforcement of the Milton-Madison Bridge until April 25, which corresponds with the first five-day bridge closure, Clifford said.
Just as the communities of Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind., were preparing for the first two planned five-day bridge closures on April 25-29, the weight limit restriction from 15 to three tons took residents and commuters by surprise. In fact, this change has been much more of a hardship than the five-day closure, during which Walsh Construction Co. workers plan to work around the clock to remove the existing bridge approaches and connect temporary ramps on both ends of the bridge. When the bridge re-opens April 30, traffic will continue to use the existing bridge for another nine months but gain access from these temporary approaches.
Kentucky transportation officials had been conducting inspections of the bridge every two months since the 15-ton weight limit was imposed in summer 2009. But now they plan to conduct inspections every month for as long as the existing structure is in use, which is expected to be through late December. They also insist that the recent decision to lower the weight limit to three tons is a result of sheer deterioration of the aging superstructure and not a result of semi-trucks that have continued to cross the bridge for the past 2 1/2 years in violation of the 15-ton weight limit.
“The bridge is deteriorating at a rapid pace; in fact, it is deteriorating so fast that it was going to have to go to a three-ton limit eventually,” said David Steele, KYTC’s Branch Manager for Bridge Maintenance and Preservation who took part in the recent bridge inspections.

Pat Auxier

"We will do whatever we have to do, regardless, to serve our customers."

– Pat Auxier, Auxier Gas, Hanover, Ind.

“We just hope it will last until December. There is a possibility that it could be closed down before we are through using it,” Steele continued.
Steele and Josh Rogers, KYTC’s Project Manager for Ohio River Bridge Inspections, discussed the bridge’s condition during an interview prior to the March 22 public meeting. Both stood firm in saying that while heavy semi-truck traffic over the bridge has not helped matters, it is the deterioration alone that led to the recent lowering of the weight limit.
“That bridge is in severely poor condition and getting worse,” Steele said. “It’s served its use; its serve its time. It’s worn out and ready to be replaced.”
At the outset of the bridge replacement project two years ago, officials had projected the bridge could last another 10 years before being shut down.
Greg Prince, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, could not say how much money has been allocated toward enforcing the three-ton weight limit on the Indiana side. But he said the Indiana State Police will have a presence there until the five-day closure in late April and for about two weeks after the temporary bridge opens to traffic after the closure.

Madison Ramp

Renderings provided

The temporary bridge approach in
Madison, Ind., (above) will reroute
traffic east to Ferry Street, where
it will then turn north to join Hwy.
56 near Key West Shrimp House.
The temprorary bridge approach
in Milton, Ky., (below) will reroute
traffic east to the Milton Boat
Ramp and onto KY 36.

Milton Ramp

“We’re trying to mirror the enforcement taking place on the Kentucky side of the river,” Prince said during a March 29 telephone interview. “This is a little different scenario than we are used to, in that both states are sharing the cost of monitoring the bridge weight limits. We do place restrictions on bridges fairly often, and we notify local law enforcement of those restrictions. But we don’t typically take part in the enforcement like we are doing here.”

Prince said INDOT is working closely with the KYTC and the City of Madison to help make the public aware of the restrictions. “The 24/7 enforcement was done to get people aware and to also act as a deterrent,” he said. “The patrols are intended to prompt voluntary compliance. But we hope drivers also play a role in ensuring the safety of the motoring public and themselves by obeying the restrictions.”

Temporary Pier Piling Work

Walsh Construction Co. photo

A welder works on one of the
vertical steel pylons that will
be used to temporarily hold the new
bridge truss until the existing truss
is removed from the old piers.

Construction of the Milton-Madison Bridge has been delayed by seven high water events – five last year and so far two this year. The result is a loss of 108 work days, according to Aaron Stover, Project Manager with Michael Baker Jr. Engineering firm, which oversees contractor Walsh Construction’s work.
Stover presented an overview of the project at the March 22 public meeting, held at the Brown Gym in Madison.
Stover told the crowd that the biggest challenge in the project has been the rain. Repeated flooding has caused the cofferdams around the concrete piers to fill with water and “making it unsafe for workers to be out there with heavy equipment,” Stover said. He noted that the bridge was initially projected to be open to traffic in September 2012. That date has now changed to “sometime in 2013” as a result of the setbacks, he said.
During the first few days of the five-day closure, there will be loud noises due to explosives that will be used to demolish the existing approaches to the bridge, Stover said. A noise variance has been granted by the city to allow the blasting work to take place.

Aaron Stover

Photo by Don Ward

Aaron Stover, Milton-Madison
Bridge Project Manager for
Michael Baker Engineering Inc.,
reviews the construction timeline
during the March 22 public meeting
at the Brown Gym in Madison, Ind.
He says rain delays have been the
major problem for contractor
Walsh Construction Co.

The relatively sparse crowd of about 200-300 people at the public meeting was perhaps an indication of the lack of concern over the five-day closure, which has been anticipated for nearly a year. Many residents and commuters who use the bridge for school or work have made arrangements to either drive around Markland Dam for the three weekdays of that closure or stay with relatives and friends. Some have opted to take vacation days to avoid the drive.
In fact, more concern has been expressed over the three-ton weight limit than the five-day closure.
Dave Ungru, owner of Koehler Tire in Madison, attended public meeting because of his concerns over the impact he has already experienced from the lower weight limit on the existing bridge. He talked to the bridge inspectors and Kentucky transportation officials to express his concerns. But he learned that nothing could be done to alleviate the problem.

Concrete Pour Preperation

Walsh Construction Co. photo

Walsh Construction Co. workers
prepare the forms for a concrete
pour around an existing pier. In all,
they will will pour 3,500 tons
of concrete per pier.

Afterward, he said, “The three-ton limit on the bridge is killing me because we have six to seven tire deliveries a day. We do a lot of farm work in Kentucky, and now we can’t get to Kentucky to fix flats and the three-quarter-ton trucks can’t get to us for tire repair.”
Wade Lawson owns and operates Ferti-Lawn in Milton, Ky., and serves a large client base in the Madison area. He says 60 percent of his business is in southern Indiana, thus posing the same problem that Barnes is facing. Lawson is seeking a place in Madison to park his truck that he uses to chemically treat lawns. He also needs access to water to fill the 300-gallon tank.
“Fortunately, this blow has come near the end of my early spring lawn treatment season, but I still need to continue into the summer,” Lawson said. “The worst part is that we had no warning. If we knew this was coming ahead of time, we could have prepared for it. But this has left everyone scrambling.”

Michael Barnes

Photo by Don Ward

Michael Barnes of
Barnes Oil in Milton,
Ky., has had to drive
around via Markland
Dam to serve more
than half of his
customer base in
Madison, Ind. He
says it takes him
two hours round trip.

Lawson said his customers have shown patience and understanding, but he worries that he may lose some business over the dilemma.
Likewise, Pat Auxier of Auxier Gas in Hanover, Ind., cannot send his large propane trucks over the bridge to serve his many Kentucky customers. He says he is fortunate that the heating season is practically over, so it is not as much a concern now as it will be in the fall.
His drivers have been crossing at Markland Dam to get to the Trimble County customers, and then heading to La Grange to service customers there before heading home across the bridge in Louisville.
“That makes for a long day,” Auxier said. “We can send our pickup truck over to service accounts, but we can’t send our propane tank trucks over the bridge here.”
Auxier estimates that 20 percent of his propane customers are in Kentucky, adding, “We will do whatever we have to do, regardless, to serve our customers.”
The three-ton weight limit has also affected farmers and countless other businesses who serve customers on both sides of the Ohio River valley.
“I don’t think the people of Jefferson County, especially, realize just how much commerce goes over that bridge every day – food, furniture, tires, you name it,” Auxier said. “If the bridge had been closed for a year, like they were first talking about, it would have been detrimental to our community. I will be glad when it’s all over and we have a new bridge to cross.”

Back to the Milton-Madison Bridge Article Archive.



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