Finishing Touch

Final phase nears in
Milton-Madison Bridge Project

Bridge slide planned for early February,
to be followed by community celebration

January 2014
edition cover

(January 2014) ­– On Dec. 20, 1929, a large group of townspeople and dignitaries from Kentucky and Indiana gathered in the middle of the Milton-Madison Bridge to celebrate the opening of the newly constructed span, built by J.G. White Engineering Corp. of New York. It was very cold that day, but people braved the weather to attend the momentous occasion – a bright spot in what otherwise was the depths of the Great Depression.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on the bridge that featured Indiana Gov. Harry Leslie and Louisville businessman Tom Duncan, who represented Louisville Mayor William B. Harrison and Kentucky Lt. Gov. James Breathitt Jr., neither of whom could attend. In a surprise to the crowd, 10 airplanes from Indianapolis suddenly appeared and flew overhead, dropping 100,000 leaflets bearing congratulations and floral tributes from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Merchants Association. H. Wier Cook, Indiana’s World War II flying ace, led the planes.


Photo by Don Ward

The lone remaining Pier 5 near the Indiana side will be removed from the river and
not used in the
final project.

Then a parade was held on Madison’s Main Street featuring more than 70 floats and Bridge Queen contestants from around the region. After the parade, a VIP luncheon for 500 guests was held at Madison’s Brown Gym, hosted by Madison Mayor Marcus Sulzer.
The day was filled with speeches and handshakes and posing for photographs.
The bridge opening event took place only a few months after the Stock Market crash of 1929, and few people even owned automobiles. So the bridge was open to pedestrians as well as autos. It cost a nickel to walk across the bridge and 45 cents to drive across it until the bridge was freed of tolls on Nov. 1, 1947.
Now, 84 years later, a new Milton-Madison Bridge is about to be completed and dedicated. Walsh Construction Co. is finishing the job of widening the last pier cap to hold the 40-foot span and will soon begin plans for the well-publicized bridge “slide.” This will involve closing the bridge to traffic for up to seven days while workers use hydraulic equipment to slide the new span atop the refurbished existing piers and connect the approaches on each end. The construction contract provided for 10 days of bridge closure. Walsh technically only used three of its 10 days in the first closure in late April 2012 when the old bridge was closed to allow workers to demolish the old approach ramps and connect temporary new approaches to the new bridge span.

Milton Ramp

Photo by Don Ward

A short section of roadway
on the Milton approach will be
slid into place during the final phase. It is now being used to connect
the Milton ramp to the bridge span
in its temporary position.

Once the bridge slide is complete and the bridge has re-opened to traffic, officials from both states will turn their attention to a celebration. And while it won’t feature all the pomp and circumstance of its predecessor, this 2014 celebration is expected to mirror it in some respects. Officials from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Indiana Department of Transportation are hoping this celebration will also take place in the middle of the new bridge. It is hoped that once a date has been set, governors from both states will be able to attend and take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the bridge, according to Andrea Clifford, spokeswoman for the KYTC’s District 5 in Louisville. The public will be allowed to walk onto the bridge for about an hour prior to the ceremony. Traffic will be re-opened immediately after the ceremony.

Bridge Chronology

There will be no queen contest or airplanes bearing floral tributes or parade or VIP luncheon, but officials from both Madison and Milton are planning their own VIP receptions. Details are still being ironed out for each, officials said.
“Since we don’t know exactly when the bridge ‘slide’ is going to take place, we do not have a date for the (dedication) event,” Clifford said.
Walsh Construction had hoped to slide the bridge last July, then August, then December, then January. Weather conditions – snow and cold temperatures – and then rising water levels on the Ohio River caused by the melting of that snow, have all contributed to the delay. In late December, Walsh Construction announced it now plans to slide the new bridge span into its permanent position in early February.
Meantime, widening of the last pier cap is taking place. The old bridge was 20 feet wide, half the width of the new span. So in addition to strengthening the base of the existing piers, the pier “caps” had to be widened to support the new, wider span.
On Jan. 5, workers plan to start demolishing the lone standing original pier No. 5, closest to the Indiana side. It will not be used. A new, shorter pier has instead been constructed on land to replace it.

Bridge Dedication

Photo courtesy Jefferson Co. Historical Society Research Archive

Indiana Gov. Harry Leslie (left) shakes hands with Louisville businessman Tom Duncan, representing the Louisville Board of Trade, during the Dec. 20, 1929 ribbon-cutting ceremony on the original Milton-Madison Bridge.

In addition to the slide of the 2,427-foot-long bridge span – considered to be the longest such bridge slide in North America – workers must also slide into place a short span of roadway on the Milton side that is now being used to get motorists from the new Milton ramp onto the new bridge span that rests in its temporary location atop temporary piers.
Walsh Construction will be looking for a seven-day window to slide the bridge when there is no snow predicted and low river levels. Snow would add extra weight to the bridge during the slide. Cold weather is not as much of a concern, according to the Bridge Project Team.
Once the new bridge span is closed to traffic, workers will quickly prepare for the slide to take place on Day 2 of the closure, officials said. It could take up to 10 hours to slide the structure into place. The slide will occur so slowly that it will be hard to see it move. The remaining days of the closure will entail making all the connections onto the refurbished piers and both approaches on each end.
This innovative bridge slide technique has garnered much attention – and even some design awards – in the engineering community. The slide is expected to attract many spectators, both regionally and from the engineering community. Walsh Construction teamed with Burgess & Niple Engineers of Columbus, Ohio, and Buckland and Taylor Ltd. of North Vancouver, B.C., to build the new bridge. Their “design-build method” and proposal to the slide the bridge, and to require only 10 days of closure to traffic, helped them win the construction bid. Their proposal also came in 20 percent under the estimated cost of $131 million to replace the old bridge. Other construction proposals called for closing the bridge entirely during construction. The negative economic impacts from such a proposal were anticipated to be devastating to the region.
A $20 million Tiger Grant awarded to the project from the federal government in February 2010 helped get the project started quickly. Both states shared the remaining cost to build the bridge. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in November 2010 at Madison’s Brown Gym that featured U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and both states’ governors. Construction began in earnest in spring 2011.
After the bridge span slide is complete, Walsh Construction will begin removing the temporary piers from the river, cleaning up the worksite in Madison and moving its construction equipment and supplies over to its work station on the Milton riverbank. Eventually, Walsh will restore the former Jaycee riverfront park in Madison and attach the pedestrian walkway to the westernmost side of the bridge.
The first Milton-Madison Bridge took two years and $1.365 million to build. By comparison, the new bridge has taken just more than three years and $103 million to build.

• For more information about the project, visit: www.MiltonMadisonBridge.com.

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