Mitigation sounds like a big word to most people.
To me, it represents government-speak for ease your pain and
would immediately be edited out of normal newspaper copy by changing it
to something that more resembles plain English.
Websters defines mitigate this way: To make less harsh
or hostile; to make less severe or painful.
But in the next few months, many of us residing here in the Ohio Valley
who depend on getting back and forth across the Ohio River from Milton,
Ky., to Madison, Ind., will be seeking mitigation in a big way.
If you have been attending the monthly Milton-Madison Bridge meetings
over the past year or have been reading reports about the proposed bridge
superstructure replacement, then you have likely heard or read about economic
mitigation funds that will be provided to help offset the negative
impact of the two-year project. Mitigation monies will pay for such things
as a two-vessel, 24-hour-a-day ferry service to get people across the
river; seminars to help business owners, marketing dollars to promote
the two cities before, during and after the anticipated one-year bridge
closure, and dozens of other perks to help save the region from economic
In fact, before this process is over, you may begin to see billboards
and T-shirts shouting the slogan: Mitigate Me! The Bridge is Closing!
Actually a large marketing campaign is being planned to help boost business
in the region during the two-year project, but the message will likely
be much more sedate. Something like: Come to Madison, but be sure
to drive around. Our bridge is closed.
The 15-page Memorandum of Agreement, or MOA, to
which it is often referred in bridge meetings, outlines all the contractually
agreed-upon factors dealing with the colossal project. It includes all
the mitigation funding items. This is the primary document
that binds the two communities, historic preservation organizations and
federal, state and local governments. While the document has been tweaked
along way, the most recent draft is posted on the www.
MiltonMadisonBridge.com website and must be signed by all parties in the
immediate aftermath of the much-anticipated announcement for a $95 million
federal stimulus grant to help fund the $131 million project.
While many expected that announcement would come in late January, it is
now expected to come in early February. Bridge consultants, including
John Carr of Wilbur Smith Associates Inc., the Lexington, Ky., firm hired
to guide the project, believe the grant is practically a sure thing, but
everything is on hold until the decision is made.
Once made, it will set in motion a series of events, most notably the
formation of a bid package to do the bridge replacement on top of the
80-year-old, existing concrete piers. The new bridge will feature a deck
that is twice as wide as it is now. It will have two 12-foot-wide lanes,
each with 10-foot shoulders, and a walkway for pedestrians. The current
bridge has two 10-foot-wide lanes and no shoulders or walkway.
But while all that metal and pavement is being stretched across the Ohio
River, the region must deal with the economic hardships associated with
the complete bridge shutdown, estimated to last from nine to 12
Thats where the mitigation funds come in. Consider these items listed
in the MOA:
$5 million for a free, 24-hour ferry service, with free parking
on both sides of the river for those who want to cross but leave their
$205,000 to the City of Madison to spend on a marketing campaign
to help promote tourism and local businesses (the tourism offices
current annual marketing budget is only $85,000);
$40,000 to the City of Milton to do the same;
Up to $40,000 per year for two years to conduct business planning
seminars for Milton and Madison business owners and employers to prepare
for the bridge closure six months out;
Money to hire a Historic Preservation Officer for $40,000
a year for two years to seek grants to and other assistance in improving
the Madison Historic District and National Landmark District;
More recently, officials have discussed adding a water taxi or helicopter
service for emergency and medical personnel needing to get to Kings
Daughters Hospital & Health Services. They are also exploring
a bus service, similar to Catch-A-Ride, to carry people from the ferry
landing up into the city of Madison.
Mitigation is starting to sound pretty good at this point, but we will
still be saddled with lane closures off and on all this year while they
conduct repairs to the existing bridge, and up to an entire year, beginning
in January 2011, with no bridge at all. The ferry service is projected
to only carry 40 percent of the current daily bridge traffic about
11,000 vehicles a day. While much of that traffic accounts for leisure
travelers who would likely choose not to cross the ferry, no one has been
able to predict just how long the wait will be for those people who need
to cross the ferry each day for work or school or commerce.
As for the marketing campaign, I can see the advertisements now: Come
to Madison and ride the ferry! Or maybe: Take a leisurely
cruise across the Ohio! Or how about: Spend a day on the Ohio
Perhaps the bridge project will spawn a new generation of entrepreneurs
in the region? We may see private boat owners hauling their friends across
the river for a few bucks. Or Billy Bobs Beer Service, whereby fishing
boats are loaded with cases of Bud and Miller Lite and hauled over to
Trimble County (a dry county) for a profit. Madison has long struggled
to find a company to offer leisure boat cruises on the Ohio River, so
maybe the time is finally right?
Swimming lessons may be next.
Maybe they can mitigate that.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.