may face wrecking ball
express mixed views on
replacing it with a two-lane bridge
PROSPECT, Ky. (February 2005) The town of
Prospect is just as the name implies: a town full of expectations. In
recent years, residential and economic growth has expanded its borders
but also made way for the possible demolition of a historic landmark
in the nearby hamlet of Harrods Creek.
by Michella Nigh
The one-lane bridge over Harrods Creek may be replaced with
a newer one that retains its historical integrity, officials say.
Years of wear and tear on a one-lane bridge spanning Harrods
Creek has now raised concern over the safety and inconvenience of this
test to Americas engineering and industrial past. Preservation
versus demolition is the debate arising over a project Prospect Mayor
Lonnie Falk said has been on the drawing board for a couple of
The bridge in question is near another local River Road landmark, the
Chick Inn. In the late 1700s, pioneers were attracted to the beautiful
bottomlands and river bluffs of the area. The Ohio River made Harrods
Landing a popular stop for flatboats in route to other cities along
the Ohio, and the old Harrods Tavern a hot spot for the men who
navigated the flatboats.
A permanent settlement was begun sometime prior to 1775. Farmers and
millers were attracted to the area, which eventually grew into a suburb
full of summer cabins and estates for wealthy Louisvillians.
Even though it still retains a charming, small town atmosphere, Harrods
Creek is in danger of losing some of the nostalgia that it has maintained
for centuries. The city of Prospect supports this project and is preservation-minded,
said Falk. Plans call for widening the bridge to two lanes and possibly
replacing it the way it was originally built.
It definitely needs to be two lanes, said Michael Gadlage,
owner of Harrods Creek Marine Supply. Gadlage said he would like
to see the bridge keep its current architectural style as a reminder
of its historic value. But it is dangerous, he said.
Gadlage said demolishing the bridge would ease tensions for the numerous
residents that must use the bridge on a daily basis, but the community
would lose some of its visibly documented historical significance.
Gadlages wife, Tammy, disagrees with her husband. She insists
the bridge should remain a one-lane bridge, referring to it as a
historical monument. Everyone knows its there.
by Darrel Taylor
Harrod's Creek Bridge is located
on River Road about 1 mile from
Hwy. 42 in Prospect, Ky.
Tammy Gadlage crosses the bridge every day but doesnt
think about it as an inconvenience. She conceded that it is falling
apart and needs to be repaired, but its one-lane status should be kept.
There are no traffic lights or stop signs near the site.
The bridge slows traffic dramatically, Falk said. There is a two-lane
road leading to the bridge, which switches to one-lane to cross the
bridge. It is troublesome for emergency vehicles when they need
to get through, said Falk.
With Hwy. 42 being the only route to Louisville, traffic is often rerouted
down Hwy. 42 if an accident occurs on I-71. The bridge is a safety
issue, as far as were concerned, said Falk.
A second angle to the Harrods Creek bridge project is the upcoming
construction on the East End bridge, leading to Indiana. Falk would
like to see the Harrods Creek project come to fruition after the
Indiana bridge widening project because closing down Hwy. 42 at rush
hour for bridge work to continue would erupt in major traffic frustrations.
Everyone does agree on one factor: The bridge is very old. For safety
reasons, it needs to be replaced, said Rick Storm, Engineer Administrator
for Louisville Metro Government. This project falls under Metro Governments
responsibility, but final approval must come from the Federal Highway
The project was approached in 1997 after a bridge inspection revealed
the need for repair. These inspections are completed on a yearly basis,
said Storm. With more than 8,000 cars per day crossing the bridge, something
must be done to alleviate future safety issues, he said.
Metro Governments plan calls for keeping the three existing arches
and building a new substructure inside of the arches, Storm said. Railing
will be similar to the current style in order to maintain its
historical integrity, he said.
The major constraint in constructing a new bridge inside the existing
one is the width of the bridge. This plan would not allow for a two-lane
bridge, but rather the one-lane status would have to be maintained.
Metro Government also wanted to include sidewalks and a bike lane, said
Storm, but this is not possible with a rebuilt one-lane bridge.
Tammy Gadlage said building a new bridge under the existing one is not
a plausible option. Some boats can barely clear the bridge as they go
under it, she said. At a normal pull most boats have no trouble, but
when the water is up, tall boats (such as houseboats) have trouble and
only one boat at a time can go under the bridge.
River Fields, a non-profit land conservation group, has been involved
in this project on a consultant level. River Fields works within the
Ohio River corridor, monitoring 50 miles on both sides of the Ohio River,
said Heidi Saunders, Community Planning Manager for River Fields.
Weve been involved from the beginning, said Saunders.
The Kentucky Transportation Department invited all interested parties
to participate and give their input on the project. Saunders said River
Fields considers the bridge a cultural icon, which tells
a story to and about the community. Kentucky author Sue Grafton wrote
about the bridges inspirational aspect and it was featured in
a 1996 screenplay written by Naomi Wallace, Lawn Dogs.
It was Wallace who informed Lawn Dogs producer Duncan Kenworthy
of its possible replacement. Wallace grew up in the area and her father,
Henry Wallace, still resides there as owner of Henrys Ark.
Kenworthy was struck with the beauty of the Prospect area when he filmed
this movie. He carried these feelings back to England with him. I
think the bridge is a fine piece of local Kentucky history, and it would
be a shame if it got swept away just to take two minutes off the drive
to work, Kenworthy said. Better to stop for those two minutes
and appreciate the people who built the bridge.
The Louisville Courier-Journal on Jan. 16 published a letter to the
editor that Kenworthy wrote about saving the Harrods Creek bridge.
Ill be the first to admit that Im not one of those
who have to wait every morning to cross it. But I come from a country
where we often choose to put character and history before occasional
inconvenience, Kenworthy wrote.
Completed around 1916, the bridge has been declared eligible for inclusion
on the National Register of Historical Places. The bridge was designed
extremely well, said Saunders.
River Fields is concerned over the safety issue of the bridge and believes
much needed repairs have been delayed. Saunders said the bridge is safe,
since it meets state standards. But to change the overall appearance
of the bridge by switching to two-lanes would alter the whole character
of the area, she said.
We need to look at the bigger picture, said Saunders. The
bridge rests between an S-curve, and widening the bridge would possibly
increase the speed at which vehicles travel into the curve.
There was an earlier bridge on the spot, since River Road was a critical
roadway into Louisville and there was much transportation along the
river. It is the only scenic byway in Jefferson County. More than 2,000
people took tours of River Road and the bridge during last years
meeting of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Louisville.
An environmental review process is close to completion for this project.
Storm said the projected cost of the project is $1 million. Federal
government will provide 80 percent of the cost, while Metro Government
must provide 20 percent in matching funds.
Money will not be available until the next Fiscal Year, beginning in
October 2006. If the final design and right-of-way issues are settled
by that time, work is expected to begin in 2007, said Storm.
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