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Bridge Reaction

Area officials, business owners
skeptical of bridge plan

They hope contractor can indeed
keep closure to 10 days

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(November 2010) – While many city and county officials and area merchants in Madison, Ind., and Trimble and Carroll counties agree that a 10-day bridge closure is more desirable than a 365-day closure, they still see many pros and cons to the project to replace the 80-year-old Milton-Madison Bridge. None deny it will cause less disruption, IF it actually takes only 10 days to complete.

Shorty Tomlinson

Shorty Tomlinson

Reaction has been mixed to the recently announced 10-day closure as part of the project.
When most businesses and individuals were anticipating a 10-12 month closure, “It will change things drastically,” said Carroll County Judge-Executive Shorty Tomlinson. “It’s an interesting project, and I really want to see it work.”
Tomlinson is skeptical as to whether the project will really only take 10 days to repair the bridge that spans the Ohio River between Madison, Ind., and Milton, Ky. He attended a planning session where he viewed a video of another bridge the Walsh Construction Co. erected in Canada, and said he hopes the Milton-Madison Bridge project goes through just as smoothly.
All of the months of planning that has gone into this project have been worth it, said Tomlinson. He doesn’t see it as a waste of time, but rather a worthwhile endeavor. There’s no doubt the project will have “a major impact on all our industries. We’ve needed to conduct a marketing study and impact study for some time to enhance what we already have.”
An estimated 10,000 drivers cross the bridge daily. Tomlinson doesn’t think there will be a major shift in shoppers and employees in either direction. “A certain amount are going to shop with you, anyway,” he said.
Marni Todd, owner of The Floating Cow in Madison, thinks her customers will keep coming. “Most of my returning customers say it will not affect them in coming to Madison,” she said.
Todd said the bridge project is “obviously very good for the community, and a 10-day bridge closure will not interrupt traffic as much.” She gets a lot of feedback from customers about the project who say “it is not a deterrent to coming to town. They love coming here.”
Todd concedes how a long-term bridge closure might be an inconvenience, but if you’re just coming to town for the day, it’s not so much a bother, she said. If it affects your employment, that’s another issue.
Tomlinson agreed that industries with heavy truck traffic would feel more of an impact with a longer bridge closure. A shorter closure time will save time and added expenses in the long run and less hassle for those who have to cross the bridge to get to work, he said.
Todd has many visitors from the Cincinnati, Louisville and Indianapolis areas. She even had a couple from England stop by her shop recently. She usually suggests they pick up a map from the tourism office and enjoy a walk while in Madison. “I send them to the riverfront,” she said.
Madison has a uniqueness to it that is appealing to visitors, Todd said. From being a river town to the historical aspect, “we have a beautiful Main Street area.” It’s the whole atmosphere that attracts people, she said, including the “river, hills and scenery.”
She said that “almost every day, someone discovers Madison for the first time.” She doesn’t think a bridge closure will put an end to this, no matter how long the bridge will be closed for repairs.
“I’m happy that we’re getting more restaurants downtown,” said Todd. “This brings people in to try them and to shop.”
Hurley Adams, owner of The Fabric Shop in Madison, says he is not really worried about a long term bridge closure, if it came to that, because customers are “going to find me. I have what you can’t find elsewhere.”
His specialty fabric shop has been located in Madison for more than 21 years, and most of his customers make quilts, clothing and other items that they use often. “They’re not just going to run out to the store and get these things. They’re going to make them,” Hurley said.
As long as the bridge closure is announced ahead of time, “that is the big key,” he said. “My customers in Kentucky can make a list and will know what they need to get ahead of time.” With a list planned out, they may even turn their trip into a day-long excursion, taking a long ride up the river and combining several stops into one visit to the area, he said.
Visitors prefer Madison because it’s not like other towns that have big crowds of people or bad traffic, and you can walk to where you’re going, said Hurley.
Patty Jackson, manager of Riverside Produce located by the bridge in Milton, Ky., said that a shorter bridge closure time “naturally will make a big difference.” When the project was expected to take a full year, “we had no idea how we would be impacted.”
The business has been in the same location since 1991, when it expanded from its site across the road. “Ten days we can handle pretty well,” said Jackson, “but it’s hard to believe. We can only go by what the engineers say and hope it happens that way.”
Troy Burkhardt, co-owner along with Steve Buchanan of Milton Fast Lane BP gas station by the bridge, said a 10-day closure will be a “tremendous help to all of us on this side of the river.” But he was quick to add, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
While many are skeptical of such a fast construction, “it would be a huge gain for us,” said Burkhardt. He rationalizes that Walsh Construction Co. wouldn’t have put out the bid unless they thought they could get it done, but “it seems impossible.”
Burkhardt hopes to make income off of the bridge workers. He bought the business in April and opened on June 26, but had he known about the bridge closure when he purchased the business, he probably wouldn’t have bought it, even though it’s “in a great location,” he said.
Burkhardt knew the potential for the business, being the only gas station in Milton. He formerly owned Burkhardt’s Discount Tobacco.
“I don’t think we have a lot of information on the details yet,” of the bridge project, he said. Like other business owners, he’ll have to wait it out and see.
“It will be exciting to watch,” said Jackson. “This may bring in customers,” instead of deterring them, she said.
“We all want to see the area continue to grow, and even see the whole region grow,” said Tomlinson. “We’re all in it together.”
He summed it up by saying, “We all know the project needs to be done, and I’m grateful for it. Something is actually going to be accomplished.”

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