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Bridge banter

Details of bridge project
explored by participants
in online forum

Impact on historic properties
among highlights of chat

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

Milton-Madison Bridge Project Logo

(July 2009) – As a way to continue to encourage public input into the Milton-Madison Bridge Project, officials held an online forum June 2 at the project’s website, www.MiltonMadisonBridge.com. During two different sessions, community representatives from the Project Advisory Group, residents of the surrounding community, historic property owners and historic interest representatives had an opportunity to ask project team members extensive questions about the three-year, $5 million environmental study to build a new bridge across the Ohio River.
Involving the public in the process is part of the requirements for the National Environmental Policy Act, which should be completed by mid-June 2010, according to Tim Sorenson, of lead consulting firm Wilbur, Smith Associates. Once NEPA documents are finalized, the next stage is final design, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and any permitting, which generally takes between two to four years, according to project team members during the chat.
“We have received great input from the public to this point. We have been able to use public input to shape the location alternatives as well as the bridge aesthetics,” team members stated during the online chat.
“The Canip Creek alternative has been driven very heavily by input through our public involvement process. What has been greatly appreciated is the continued input from the local officials and the PAG members to help keep this project on track.”
Questions varied during the two, two-hour sessions, including what a realistic cost would be for such a project, and how much funding is already put aside. According to project team members, a good cost estimate for a bridge project of this type would be $100-$200 million. The Indiana Department of Transportation has $10 million set aside in their funding plan for the project, while the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has about $40 million shown in the last four years of the new six-year highway plan. That funding would still have to be approved by the Kentucky Legislature early in 2010.
The poor condition of the bridge was also discussed. The comment was made that rumors have swirled that there is not a chance a new bridge could be under construction before 2020, or even 2017 at the very earliest. The question was posed: “Are those realistic dates or is there a possibility we could see construction begin much earlier?”
Team members responded with, “because the existing bridge is in poor condition, the project team has made an effort to expedite the process with sensitivity to the historic communities. We hope that our earlier than normal coordination with the Section 106 parties has created good working relationships.”

John Carr

John Carr

According to the “Citizen’s Guide” of the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires the federal agencies involved in a project to take into account the effects of their undertakings on properties listed or eligible for listing in the National Register and to give the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable opportunity to comment.
Consulting parties include state historic preservation officers, Native American tribes, local governments and individuals or organizations with a demonstrated interest in the project.
Section 106 review does not mandate preservation because sometimes there is no way for a needed project to proceed without harming historic properties. It does, however, ensure that preservation values are factored into the planning and decision processes.
The point of 106 reviews is not to stop projects, but to ensure that federal agencies fully consider historic preservation issues and the views of the public during project planning.
That point was questioned at the April PAG meeting, which was held at the Livery Stable in Madison, Ind. “One of the local rumors is that the Section 106 parties can stop any project. Is this true?” asked PAG member Peter Woodburn.
John Carr, the project manager, said it is not true. “However, the Section 106 opinions are held in high regard and there are laws that we will address on this project,” he said. “We would like the parties to sit down with us and help us review resources as we consider alignments within alternatives.”
A comment then arose that a letter from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, signed by several organizations involved with the 106 process on the bridge project, was read at the March PAG meeting. That letter gave a preferred alternative and specifically did not recommend the superstructure replacement alternative, one of the four remaining alternatives for the project. Several 106 parties signed the letter, but not all of them agree with it.
“Given the tremendous detrimental impact of having no bridge in this community, it appears that the letter does not address the local sentiment,” said attorney Nathaniel Adams, a PAG member representing historical interests in Milton. “The PAG, public and team that have worked so hard on this project should not be subject to the narrow view handed down by the National Trust.”
“Does this organization have the right to stop the project,” another PAG member asked.
Carr said neither the National Trust nor the Section 106 Consulting Parties can stop the project. The decision rests with the states of Kentucky and Indiana and the Federal Highway Administration on what they wish to do with the bridge.
“The National Trust has issued an opinion. We are respectful of that opinion and we have recorded it,” he said. “Once we have all the information on the existing piers and the more detailed studies, a more informed decision can be made about this option.”
Another PAG Member, attorney Nathaniel Adams,
During the online chat, Link Ludington, an Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ historic sites architectural historian, asked “In the event that building on the existing piers is ruled out, would evaluation of any proposal for possible re-use of the old bridge by another entity likely be a direct result of the Section 106 process? “
Team members said this would typically be a condition of a Memorandum of Agreement, part of the 106 process. Any proposals for taking over the bridge would be considered by KYTC after the 106 process has been completed.
Although an initial Section 106 meeting was held in February for the bridge project, another one is not scheduled until mid-summer when the Area of Potential Effect, has been narrowed, said Sorenson.
“Officials have involved us in the process so far,” said John Stacier of Historic Madison Inc., one of the organizations involved in the 106 process. “We certainly hope to be involved further as the project develops.’

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