Race Against Time
3-ton limit adds pain
to bridge construction delays
says existing bridge
could be closed early
"That bridge is in severely poor condition
and getting worse. It has served its use; it has
served its time. Its worn out and needs to be replaced.
David Steele, KYTC bridge inspector
April Edition Cover
(April 2012) Michael Barnes of Barnes Oil
in Milton, Ky., is used to driving back and forth across the Milton-Madison
Bridge several times a day to deliver diesel fuel and other petroleum
products to farmers, factories and residential and commercial customers
in southern Indiana. In fact, he estimates nearly 75 percent of his
business is in Indiana.
But with the March 14 lowering of the weight limit from 15 tons to three
tons by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Barnes business,
like many others in the Ohio River Valley, have been severely impacted.
Not only is he having to drive two hours round trip to cross the Ohio
River at Markland Dam, located 26 miles upstream past Vevay, Ind., the
recent increase in gas prices to more than $4 a gallon is killing
me, he says.
He has been getting up at 3 a.m. to start his deliveries. I cant
pass that extra cost on to my customers or they will leave me. I am
just hoping people will be patient and work with me. I am not behind
schedule yet, but I am coming and going all the time. It will work out,
but its just going to be rough for a while.
Despite the rising costs and the extra time it takes to serve his customers,
Barnes, like others, is determined to outlast this temporary setback
and survive until December when motorists are to be rerouted onto the
new bridge truss to be mounted at first on temporary piers. This new,
2,400-foot-long steel truss will allow a return to a 15-ton weight limit
on vehicles but will prohibit large vehicles and semi-trucks because
of the tight, 90-degree turns required to get onto the bridge at each
April 25-29: First bridge closure
June 2012: First bridge truss span lift
August 2012: Second bridge truss span lift
Late December 2012: Traffic shifts to new bridge
truss on temporary piers
January 2013: Demolition of existing bridge truss
Spring 2013: Second closure and new Milton-Madison
Bridge opens to traffic
the planned bridge closure, Walsh Construction Co. will work around
the clock to remove the existing bridge approaches and connect
temporary ramps in Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind.
Madison, the intersection of Hwy. 56 and Ferry Street will convert
to a three-way stop.
A three-way stop will be placed at Ferry Street and Vaughn
Drive in Madison.
In Milton, northbound traffic from U.S. Hwy. 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 KY Hwy. 36 for southbound traffic from Ferry
Street in Milton will be maintained as it is now.
The 83-year-old superstructure, which long ago was declared
structurally deficient and functionally obsolete by engineers,
will then be removed from the existing piers by demolition explosives
and hauled to a scrapyard. Once the new truss is slid into place atop
the refurbished and strengthened existing concrete piers and open to
traffic, there will be no weight or truck restrictions. The new bridge
is projected to open to traffic in spring 2013.
Andrea Clifford, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
in Louisville, said continuous enforcement of a bridge weight limit
is rare but has been used in the past in some instances. Given the rapidly
deteriorating condition of the Milton-Madison Bridge, she said officials
wanted to use enforcement to get the word out quickly and put some force
into the new weight restriction.
We knew that there was an issue with trucks continuing to cross
the structure, and monitoring was necessary to try and prevent that
overweight traffic from using the bridge, Clifford said. We
also have posted speed limits all over the state but do not have cops
on every street, road and intersection. There is a general expectation
that people will obey the law. But we always have some cops somewhere.
She added that the state has used targeted enforcement in
some areas, and she cited one example as the Ledbetter Bridge in western
Kentucky. There was a need to enforce the weight restriction on
that bridge in order to avert potential tragedy.
Meanwhile, Kentucky has allocated $60,000 to fund the 24-hour enforcement
of the Milton-Madison Bridge until April 25, which corresponds with
the first five-day bridge closure, Clifford said.
Just as the communities of Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind., were preparing
for the first two planned five-day bridge closures on April 25-29, the
weight limit restriction from 15 to three tons took residents and commuters
by surprise. In fact, this change has been much more of a hardship than
the five-day closure, during which Walsh Construction Co. workers plan
to work around the clock to remove the existing bridge approaches and
connect temporary ramps on both ends of the bridge. When the bridge
re-opens April 30, traffic will continue to use the existing bridge
for another nine months but gain access from these temporary approaches.
Kentucky transportation officials had been conducting inspections of
the bridge every two months since the 15-ton weight limit was imposed
in summer 2009. But now they plan to conduct inspections every month
for as long as the existing structure is in use, which is expected to
be through late December. They also insist that the recent decision
to lower the weight limit to three tons is a result of sheer deterioration
of the aging superstructure and not a result of semi-trucks that have
continued to cross the bridge for the past 2 1/2 years in violation
of the 15-ton weight limit.
The bridge is deteriorating at a rapid pace; in fact, it is deteriorating
so fast that it was going to have to go to a three-ton limit eventually,
said David Steele, KYTCs Branch Manager for Bridge Maintenance
and Preservation who took part in the recent bridge inspections.
will do whatever we have to do, regardless, to serve our customers."
Pat Auxier, Auxier Gas, Hanover, Ind.
We just hope it will last until December. There
is a possibility that it could be closed down before we are through
using it, Steele continued.
Steele and Josh Rogers, KYTCs Project Manager for Ohio River Bridge
Inspections, discussed the bridges condition during an interview
prior to the March 22 public meeting. Both stood firm in saying that
while heavy semi-truck traffic over the bridge has not helped matters,
it is the deterioration alone that led to the recent lowering of the
That bridge is in severely poor condition and getting worse,
Steele said. Its served its use; its serve its time. Its
worn out and ready to be replaced.
At the outset of the bridge replacement project two years ago, officials
had projected the bridge could last another 10 years before being shut
Greg Prince, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation,
could not say how much money has been allocated toward enforcing the
three-ton weight limit on the Indiana side. But he said the Indiana
State Police will have a presence there until the five-day closure in
late April and for about two weeks after the temporary bridge opens
to traffic after the closure.
temporary bridge approach in
Madison, Ind., (above) will reroute
traffic east to Ferry Street, where
it will then turn north to join Hwy.
56 near Key West Shrimp House.
The temprorary bridge approach
in Milton, Ky., (below) will reroute
traffic east to the Milton Boat
Ramp and onto KY 36.
Were trying to mirror the enforcement taking
place on the Kentucky side of the river, Prince said during a
March 29 telephone interview. This is a little different scenario
than we are used to, in that both states are sharing the cost of monitoring
the bridge weight limits. We do place restrictions on bridges fairly
often, and we notify local law enforcement of those restrictions. But
we dont typically take part in the enforcement like we are doing
Prince said INDOT is working closely with the KYTC and
the City of Madison to help make the public aware of the restrictions.
The 24/7 enforcement was done to get people aware and to also
act as a deterrent, he said. The patrols are intended to
prompt voluntary compliance. But we hope drivers also play a role in
ensuring the safety of the motoring public and themselves by obeying
Construction Co. photo
welder works on one of the
vertical steel pylons that will
be used to temporarily hold the new
bridge truss until the existing truss
is removed from the old piers.
Construction of the Milton-Madison Bridge has been delayed
by seven high water events five last year and so far two this
year. The result is a loss of 108 work days, according to Aaron Stover,
Project Manager with Michael Baker Jr. Engineering firm, which oversees
contractor Walsh Constructions work.
Stover presented an overview of the project at the March 22 public meeting,
held at the Brown Gym in Madison.
Stover told the crowd that the biggest challenge in the project has
been the rain. Repeated flooding has caused the cofferdams around the
concrete piers to fill with water and making it unsafe for workers
to be out there with heavy equipment, Stover said. He noted that
the bridge was initially projected to be open to traffic in September
2012. That date has now changed to sometime in 2013 as a
result of the setbacks, he said.
During the first few days of the five-day closure, there will be loud
noises due to explosives that will be used to demolish the existing
approaches to the bridge, Stover said. A noise variance has been granted
by the city to allow the blasting work to take place.
by Don Ward
Bridge Project Manager for
Michael Baker Engineering Inc.,
reviews the construction timeline
during the March 22 public meeting
at the Brown Gym in Madison, Ind.
He says rain delays have been the
major problem for contractor
Walsh Construction Co.
The relatively sparse crowd of about 200-300 people at
the public meeting was perhaps an indication of the lack of concern
over the five-day closure, which has been anticipated for nearly a year.
Many residents and commuters who use the bridge for school or work have
made arrangements to either drive around Markland Dam for the three
weekdays of that closure or stay with relatives and friends. Some have
opted to take vacation days to avoid the drive.
In fact, more concern has been expressed over the three-ton weight limit
than the five-day closure.
Dave Ungru, owner of Koehler Tire in Madison, attended public meeting
because of his concerns over the impact he has already experienced from
the lower weight limit on the existing bridge. He talked to the bridge
inspectors and Kentucky transportation officials to express his concerns.
But he learned that nothing could be done to alleviate the problem.
Construction Co. photo
Construction Co. workers
prepare the forms for a concrete
pour around an existing pier. In all,
they will will pour 3,500 tons
of concrete per pier.
Afterward, he said, The three-ton limit on the bridge
is killing me because we have six to seven tire deliveries a day. We
do a lot of farm work in Kentucky, and now we cant get to Kentucky
to fix flats and the three-quarter-ton trucks cant get to us for
Wade Lawson owns and operates Ferti-Lawn in Milton, Ky., and serves
a large client base in the Madison area. He says 60 percent of his business
is in southern Indiana, thus posing the same problem that Barnes is
facing. Lawson is seeking a place in Madison to park his truck that
he uses to chemically treat lawns. He also needs access to water to
fill the 300-gallon tank.
Fortunately, this blow has come near the end of my early spring
lawn treatment season, but I still need to continue into the summer,
Lawson said. The worst part is that we had no warning. If we knew
this was coming ahead of time, we could have prepared for it. But this
has left everyone scrambling.
by Don Ward
Barnes Oil in Milton,
Ky., has had to drive
around via Markland
Dam to serve more
than half of his
customer base in
Madison, Ind. He
says it takes him
two hours round trip.
Lawson said his customers have shown patience and understanding,
but he worries that he may lose some business over the dilemma.
Likewise, Pat Auxier of Auxier Gas in Hanover, Ind., cannot send his
large propane trucks over the bridge to serve his many Kentucky customers.
He says he is fortunate that the heating season is practically over,
so it is not as much a concern now as it will be in the fall.
His drivers have been crossing at Markland Dam to get to the Trimble
County customers, and then heading to La Grange to service customers
there before heading home across the bridge in Louisville.
That makes for a long day, Auxier said. We can send
our pickup truck over to service accounts, but we cant send our
propane tank trucks over the bridge here.
Auxier estimates that 20 percent of his propane customers are in Kentucky,
adding, We will do whatever we have to do, regardless, to serve
The three-ton weight limit has also affected farmers and countless other
businesses who serve customers on both sides of the Ohio River valley.
I dont think the people of Jefferson County, especially,
realize just how much commerce goes over that bridge every day food,
furniture, tires, you name it, Auxier said. If the bridge
had been closed for a year, like they were first talking about, it would
have been detrimental to our community. I will be glad when its
all over and we have a new bridge to cross.
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