In recent months, it has become apparent that many
people in the community are confused, and even frustrated, over the name
(or lack thereof) of our bridge that spans the Ohio River between Milton,
Ky., and Madison, Ind. Until the recent bridge project began, RoundAbout
has always referred to the structure as the Ohio River Bridge.
Not only is it logical, but that is what I was always told it was actually
But in reality, there is no official name on record that I have been able
to substantiate. J.G. White Engineering Co. built the bridge but the only
plate mounted on the bridge itself is one identifying the company that
made the steel work: The Mt. Vernon Bridge Company, Mt. Vernon,
Ohio, 1929. This small plate is attached to one of the upright beams
near the Indiana side of the bridge on the downstream side as you approach
the main platform.
With all the press being generated over the past two years on replacing
the 80-year-old bridge, area residents have grown weary of the confusing
nomenclature being published in local newspapers. The Madison Courier
insists on calling it the Madison-Milton Bridge, when in fact the bridge
is owned and maintained by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which
dubs it the Milton-Madison Bridge. All of the press releases and information
generated by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet over the past two years
on the subject refer to the structure as the Milton-Madison Bridge.
In recent months I have received emails and comments from area readers
about the true name of our bridge. For instance, Linda Gordon of Milton
recently wrote: Does the Kentucky Transportation Department have
an official name for our bridge? If the Madison Courier writes an article,
it is referred to as the Madison-Milton bridge. If a Kentucky paper writes
the article, it is referred to as the Milton-Madison Bridge. Which is
correct? Other Trimble Countians often urge me to Keep em
straight on the name of that bridge.
Perhaps recognizing this bridge naming dilemma early on, consultants handling
the media coverage of the Bridge Replacement Project created website addresses
in both names, directing Internet surfers to the same website, which incidentally
is called www.Milton-MadisonBridge.com. This effort, they hoped, would
resolve the problem and get people to the site, regardless of their North-South
After some extensive digging into the records, viewing old clippings of
the bridge dedication in 1929, and even calling the Kentucky Transportation
Cabinet to inquire as to whether there ever was an official name for the
bridge, I have learned that our beloved bridge has no official name. Until
recently, it has always been referred to as the Ohio River Bridge, or
the Hwy. 421 Bridge, by Kentucky transportation officials. The Milton-Madison
Bridge seems a logical moniker, but in fact it has never been voted on
in the Kentucky Legislature as its official name.
John Carr, the lead consultant on the Bridge Replacement Project, confirmed
that any official naming of the bridge would have to be voted on and approved
by the Kentucky Legislature.
My inquiry to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet about the official
name apparently sparked a jovial debate among officials there. One official
suggested the name M&M Bridge, thereby avoiding the contentious issue
of which town should get top billing: Milton-Madison or Madison-Milton.
Perhaps we could paint the sections of the new bridge in M&M colors
red, yellow, orange, green, brown, blue - and get the Mars Candy
Co. to pay for it!
It seems only natural to me that now is the time to name our bridge, considering
the two-year Bridge Replacement Project that began in earnest in January.
Why not hold a bridge naming contest and let the people decide? Perhaps
our bridge could be named for a famous person, as is the case with many
bridges throughout the country? Or maybe the bridge naming contest would
result in the obvious: The Ohio River Bridge.
In Louisville, the major bridges spanning the Ohio River are named after
former President John F. Kennedy and the late Indiana Sen. Sherman Minton.
Bridges throughout the country are named after presidents or politicians
or other famous people. Many take on the logical names of the rivers they
cross or the cities they serve: i.e. the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the Brooklyn
Bridge, the Mackinac Bridge.
Although it would be fun to hold a bridge-naming contest during the 21
months that our new bridge is being built, I discovered some interesting
experiences that occurred in communities during their attempt to name
In 1931, New York City wrestled with naming its new bridge over the Hudson
River, according to a New York Times article of the day. Most people simply
referred to the structure as the Hudson River Bridge. But politicians
decided to let the people decide and promptly placed ballot
boxes on both sides of the river in New York and New Jersey and
for several months allow people to submit names. Then out of nowhere,
as the new bridge neared completion, the New York Port Authority announced
the name as the George Washington Memorial Bridge. The Hudson River Bridge
emerged as the publics favorite, and despite the presidential name,
people continued to refer to it as just that: The Hudson River Bridge,
since thats what theyd always called it anyway.
That is not the only bridge naming contest fiasco I discovered in my (albeit
limited) research. The Megyeri Bridge, previously known as the Northern
M0 Danube bridge, is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the River Danube
between Buda and Pest, respectively the west and east sides of Budapest,
the capital of Hungary. It is an important section of the M0 ringroad
The bridge cost $300 million to build and was officially opened on Sept.
30, 2008, but had no official name. The National Transport Authority of
Hungary initially only issued temporary permits because of disagreement
among suburban cities surrounding the bridge. A naming poll to determine
the new name of the recently built bridge caused controversy and received
media attention when American TV comedians Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Transport of Hungary organized a
public vote online to solicit possible names for the new bridge. The three
names with the most votes, as well as suggestions from local governments,
cartographers, linguists and other experts, were to be reviewed by a government
committee before a final name for the bridge was chosen. Stephen Colbert
won with 93,163 votes, and Jon Stewart and Zrínyi close behind
with 85,171 and 83,966 votes, respectively.
On Aug. 1, 2006, Reuters reported that the top candidate according to
the online poll was the Chuck Norris Bridge, named for American
action star Chuck Norris. Norris reached the height of his popularity
around this time. On Aug. 11, 2006, American satirist Colbert discussed
the story on his comedy program The Colbert Report, instructing
his viewers to visit the polling website and vote for him instead of Norris.
The next day the number of votes for him had grown 230 times, and he now
asked his viewers to follow a link from his own Colbert Nation
website. Colberts site also indirectly offered techniques for stuffing
the ballot box, as users of their forums created several automated
scripts to cast multiple votes for Colbert. On Aug. 15, 2006, he repeated
his call to be voted top of the Hungarian poll, and by Aug. 22, the Stephen
Colbert Bridge was in first with 17 million votes, about 14 million
votes ahead of the second-placed Zrínyi Bridge, named after the
Croatian-Hungarian national hero, Miklós Zrínyi, and about
7 million more than the entire population of Hungary. The same day, the
site announced a new round of voting, which would require registration
to participate, and Colbert asked his viewers to call off the dogs,
requesting on his website that fans stop using scripts to vote. Despite
this, the Stephen Colbert Bridge remained in the top position
on the website in the second round.
On Sept. 14, 2006, András Simonyi, the ambassador of Hungary to
the United States, announced on The Colbert Report that Colbert
had won the vote. Unfortunately for Colbert, Ambassador Simonyi declared
that under Hungarian law, Colbert would have to be fluent in Hungarian,
and would have to be deceased in order to have the bridge named for him.
However, after saying the rules could most likely be bent, he invited
Colbert to visit Hungary and view the construction in person and gave
him a Hungarian passport and $50 in Hungarian money. Colbert promptly
tried to bribe him with said money.
On Sept. 28, 2006, it was announced that the bridge would be named Megyeri
Bridge, even though that name did not make it to the second round.
So a public vote on our beloved new bridge over the Ohio River could be
risky in that a contest would open itself to just about anything. Letting
the people decide is not always a good idea but it would generate
lots of fun and interest in our two-year construction project taking place
down at the river. For instance, the new structure could be named after
chocolate candy or popular TV comedians or (yawn) the Ohio River
Bridge or, worse, the Hwy. 421 Bridge. Or continue to
have no real name at all!
I can see the signs now as you approach the ramp of the new bridge: Welcome
to Larry the Cable Guy Bridge. Get her done!
Cmon people, wheres the creativity? We are building a new
bridge using one of the most innovative bridge-sliding methods ever conceived
in the engineering community! Its the fastest bridge ever built
over the Ohio River, yada, yada yada. And we call it... the Ohio River
I would like to think that over the next 21 months, we can get our heads
together and come up with a new name to match the engineering feat that
is taking place in our community. When the day comes that we dedicate
the structure that so many people in the region have for so long lamented
that they would never live to see, lets celebrate the new bridge
with gusto and class and, ahem, a new name on which we can all agree.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.