Bridge may be beyond repair by 2025

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Group considers possible locations for new span

By Lorrie Kinkade


The Trimble Banner

Members of the Milton-Madison Bridge Project Advisory Group met Dec. 9 to review suggested sites for a potential new structure to replace the functionally obsolete one currently spanning the Ohio River between Trimble County, Kentucky and Jefferson County, Indiana. This was the third meeting of the council tasked with making a recommendation as to how state and federal transportation officials should solve the decades old bridge problem.

The meeting began with a briefing of the “Do Nothing” and rehabilitation options PAG members are required to consider. The group was told doing nothing, which means nothing elaborate such as painting or deck replacement, would likely result in a complete closure of the span by the year 2025, per engineer estimates. The span could be closed to large trucks and heavy loads by 2020.

If improvements are not made, bridge inspections would increase from every other year to annually and periodic lane closures would be required for increased minor maintenance. It would remain functionally obsolete and structurally deficient.

If the structure were restored, however, it would likely be a more invasive process than the communities witnessed in 1997 and would only extend the life of the bridge an additional 15 years. Lane widths, drainage, sight distance and approaches would not be changed, but structural deficiencies would be addressed with work expected to take 18 months or more. That work would necessitate frequent lane closures and occasional full bridge closures while new paint is applied, the deck is replaced and other repairs are made.

“It’s a terminal patient,” engineer J.D. Williams told the group.

Where to build

Although a determination has not been made as to build a new bridge, PAG members and other citizens offered new location suggestions at the Nov. 13 PAG meeting. This month, deputy project manager Tim Sorenson, of Wilbur Smith and Associates, introduced computer graphics of those ideas to highlight some of the pros and cons of each.

In all, six alternatives were looked at, including a Western Bypass, Lonesome Hollow, Jefferson Street, Ferry Street, KY 36 and a replacement to run parallel with the current span.

• Western Bypass – In this suggestion, a new bridge would be located four miles downstream of the existing one. Although it would be near three historic structures, it would not cross any historic districts. It could eliminate much of the commuter traffic from the downtown areas and would not provide connections to existing bicycle or pedestrian routes. It would require connecting more than four miles of roadway over difficult terrain.

• Lonesome Hollow – This alternative would connect the states at a location one mile upstream of the current bridge, with approaches at KY 36 and SR 56. Although the bridge would rise above flood level, the ramp leading to KY 36 would have the potential for falling underwater in the floodplain. A known archaeological site in Indiana and at least one historic property in Trimble County could present issues. Like the Western Bypass, this option would also not connect to current bicycle/pedestrian routes.

• KY 36 Alternative – Although this alternative would accessible from High Street and Coopers Bottom Road, thus placing it outside the local floodplain, it would seriously impact homes and businesses in Milton and Madison. It would also impact Milton’s Third Street Historic District and be situated near several historic properties on both sides of the river. The Milton runaway truck ramp, however, would be maintained.

• Madison Ferry Street – This suggestion would link the states less than two-tenths of a mile upstream of the current bridge. It would utilize an overpass over KY 36 and use or run parallel to School Hollow Road in Milton. Like the KY 36 Alternative, the runaway truck ramp would be maintained. It would require substantial roadwork in Kentucky to create a new connection to US 421, outside of the floodplain, and improve the current sharp curve. It would impact a Madison park, commercial, historic and residential areas and end in a National Landmark District.

• Parallel to Existing – Again, this alternative would maintain the runaway truck ramp and approaches would be outside the floodplain. It would impact commercial, historic and residential areas, including the Third Street Historic District in Milton and a Madison park. Coopers Bottom Road could be diverted to High Street with a new connection located above the existing roadway. Questions still remain as to how to tie all existing roadways to the bridge, while addressing current safety concerns.

• Jefferson Street – Building a span from Madison’s Jefferson Street to Coopers Bottom Road in Milton would require substantial changes to both roads. In Kentucky, Coopers Bottom Road would likely be raised 30-40’ to connect to the bridge approach. The Madison approach would begin between Main and Second streets, rising high enough to possibly allow parking underneath. If the roadway were “curb to curb” Sorenson said, it could allow parallel frontage roads from Main to Front streets. There may be issues with the floodplain and it would likely impact historic properties in Milton and a National Historic Landmark District and park in Madison.

The next step

PAG members will meet Jan. 13 to learn more about the bridge type selection process. If a new bridge is built, members from both sides of the river will have a voice in how the new span looks. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Milton Elementary School. Anyone wishing to attend may, and those desiring to speak during the 10-minute public comment session prior to the meeting may sign-up to do so.

The first public hearing of the bridge issue will be Feb. 12 at the Brown Memorial Gymnasium in Madison. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and is open to everyone.

Website active

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Indiana Department of Transportation have launched a new website to keep the public informed of the project’s progress.

MiltonMadisonBridge.com includes an overview of the project, including goals, scheduling and funding, as well as information on the project management team. Detailed information on upcoming events and summaries of prior meetings are also accessible.

Maps of the affected area and information on historic and environmental issues are available on the site along with news releases, project newsletters and a section devoted to frequently asked questions.