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By DAVE TAYLOR
Landmark News Service
The Indiana Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet hosted a public meeting Thursday to announce traffic changes that will take effect next month after the April 25-29 construction-related closure of the Milton-Madison Bridge. Traffic plans were on display during an open house at the Brown Gym in Madison.
The dates of the temporary closure are subject to change depending on weather conditions and river levels.
“Weather permitting those are the dates we are planning for,” Aaron Stover said. Stover is project manager for Michael Baker Corp., a company that provides professional engineering and consulting on major construction projects, including the Milton-Madison Bridge Project for transportation officials in the two states.
“Things that could impact that obviously is if we’re having a monsoon,” Stover said. “If the contractor’s not going to be able to work we’re not going to be able to close the bridge, so that would be pushed back otherwise. If we are having a big massive flood and the banks of the Ohio are up there’s no need to close the bridge for that period of time because they wouldn’t be able to work on the bridge anyway. But if the weather cooperates and everything goes as planned we will be having the first closure on April 25th through 29th.”
Stover said the greatest challenge involved in the construction to date has been rainfall, which has six high-water events lasting more than 108 days since construction began early in 2011. The bridge will open to traffic in its permanent location on the rehabilitated existing piers several months later than initially envisioned, Stover said.
“Our schedule has been revised,” he said. The new bridge was “originally set to open in September of 2012. We are now looking at 2013.”
During the planned closure in late April, the project contractor – Walsh Construction Company – will work around the clock to remove the existing bridge approaches and connect temporary ramps in Milton and Madison.
Work will commence at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, April 25, according to Stover. “You may expect that those construction activities will be noisy,” he said. “That’s one of the unfortunate consequences of having to work during five days is you have to work fast and you have to work at all hours of the night. The loudest activities are going to occur during that first night when they’re doing the actual demolition. They’ll have to be breaking up concrete on those approach spans.”
Stover said the Madison City Council has granted a noise variance for the five-day closure period “in order to get this done in expedited fashion,” Stover said.
After the bridge reopens on Monday, April 30, the following traffic plan will be in place:
• In Madison, the intersection of Indiana Hwy. 56 and Ferry Street will convert to a 3-way stop.
• A 3-way stop will be placed at Ferry Street and Vaughn Drive near the Key West Shrimp House in Madison. No parking will be allowed on Ferry Street. There will be three, 15-minute parking spaces at the Key West Shrimp House designated for dropping people off at the restaurant.
• In Milton, northbound traffic from U.S. 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 Hwy. 36 for southbound traffic from Ferry Street in Milton will be maintained as it is now.
During the planned five-day closure, ferry service will be provided to carry emergency vehicles across the river from the Milton boat ramp to a temporary boat ramp at Ferry Street in Madison. The Milton boat ramp will be closed to boaters during the closure period.
During the closure, drivers will detour to the Markland Locks and Dam Bridge, 26 miles upstream, or Louisville, 46 miles downstream.
Drivers are expected to use the temporary ramps for about nine months while construction continues on the temporary piers and new truss bridge just west of the existing bridge.
“If water gets as high as it did last year when Vaughn Drive was underwater at the construction site, then you will have to use the detour routes (Louisville or Markland Dam) and go around the project,” Stover said.
Shifting traffic to the temporary ramps is the first in a series of steps to ensure traffic keeps moving during construction. The community initially faced a year-long bridge closure, but innovative design and construction methods reduced the closures to a total of 10 days.
Construction began in early 2011 to replace the 20-foot-wide Milton-Madison Bridge. A new 2,400-foot-long steel truss bridge will be built on temporary piers, then slid into place on top of the existing piers which are being strengthened to meet modern standards. Once complete, the new wider bridge will lie within the footprint of the existing bridge.