Three years ago this month, I wrote a column about the name of the Milton-Madison Bridge as construction of the new span was just getting under way. Since people on each side of the Ohio River often had differing viewpoints on the name of the bridge – Milton-Madison or Madison-Milton Bridge – I set about to confirm the official name.
In doing so, at my request the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (after all, Kentucky owns and maintains it) researched the issue in their files in Frankfort and found that the bridge in fact has no official name. Andrea Clifford, spokeswoman for the KYTC said, “It has always been referred to as the Ohio River Bridge or the Hwy. 421 Bridge by Kentucky transportation officials.”
When the Bridge Replacement Project began, the span was dubbed the Milton-Madison Bridge. That is also the name of KYTC’s official website that monitors the project’s progress: www.MiltonMadisonBridge.com.
Photo by Don Ward
The Builders Plate from the
old span was removed and
is held at Madison City Hall.
I also learned from the KYTC that changing the name would require approval by the Kentucky Legislature via a bill that would have to be introduced by a member. Of course, this led to my immediate call for suggestions from readers on what we, as a community, might name our new span. We posted this request on the RoundAbout website for many months and received several interesting suggestions.
The last one stood for 83 years. That’s a long time to agree to disagree.
Over the years, it has become customary for construction companies to attach a metal Builders Plate to their finished works. These plates typically list the name of the construction company and year built. At the outset of demolition of the old bridge, Walsh Construction removed the “Builders Plate” and delivered it to Madison City Hall, as per the construction contract. It is held in Madison Mayor Damon Welsh’s office. He said he hopes it can someday be displayed for public view at city Hall or else given to the Jefferson County Historical Society for exhibition.
It is interesting to note that Walsh Construction does not plan to attach a Builders Plate to the new bridge. Perhaps they wisely did not want to get into the nebulous debate over the official name of the span?
But with the final phase – the long-awaited “bridge slide” – expected to take place this month, it is time to publish our readers’ suggestions and begin to think more seriously about whether we, as a community, want to give our new bridge a new name or stay with the Milton-Madison Bridge as the (somewhat official) moniker.
So herewith is a sampling of the suggestions given to RoundAbout in our “Name That Bridge” campaign:
• Kentuckiana Gateway Bridge. Christopher Beard of Carrollton, Ky., suggests this name after having seen the design plans for the new bridge. “After viewing the ending result pictures online of what the bridge looks like when it is complete only reconfirms the name “Kentuckiana Gateway Bridge.” This name brings the two states together as one through this new gateway, having the Gateway walk where you can stroll between each state as you wish and having more freedom to actually relax in a way some could not imagine with the breeze as it blows through your hair and being able to take photos in a new way also.
• Harlan Hubbard Bridge. Doug VanSlambrook of Madison suggests naming the bridge after the late artist and author from Trimble County, Ky. He writes: “Harlan Hubbard remains a source of inspiration for many folks local to the area. Naming the new Milton-Madison Bridge in his honor would ensure that his legacy remains for future generations who would otherwise be unaware of his unique story. His name is synonymous with the Ohio River, which has always been and will always be a central feature of Milton and Madison culture.
• The Crossroads Bridge. Lora Shepherd of Madison suggests this name because, she writes, “The Midwest is the crossroad to America! When I was little and I drew the state of Indiana, I remember always making the bend at the bottom. Now that I live in Madison, I realize that bend in the river defines Madison. I love Madison. It is so beautiful, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
• The Regatta Bridge. Kevin Bye of Frankfort, Ky., offered this name because of the Unlimited hydroplane racing history associated with the area. He writes, “I am a repairman; I travel to Madison, Ind., quite often. The Madison Regatta is the No. 1 thing that comes to mind when Madison, Ind., is mentioned to people outside of Madison. Therefore, I think The Regatta Bridge is an obvious choice that would be better than other simpler names.
• Kentuckiana Memorial Bridge. Pamela McIntosh of Commiskey, Ind., suggests this name to honor veterans. “Kentuckiana Soldiers Memorial Bridge would be a fitting name to go along with the rest of the spanning bridges marking a memorial of historically important people. What would be more important to the people of Kentucky and Indiana than to name the bridge in memory of our fallen soldiers of battles past, present and the unthinkable future. A marker or art form at each end of the bridge, one on Kentucky side and one on the Indiana side, to mark this Ohio River crossing point.”
• Sunset Bridge. Kathy Montgomery of North Vernon, Ind., suggests this name because of the view. “I think with the walkway on the west side of the bridge, this would be a beautiful place to watch the sunset. And I can image people coming from all around to take pictures. Just think how amazing that would be. And it doesn’t give credit to either Indiana or Kentucky, just the sunset.”
• The M&M Bridge. Yvette Hayes of Milton, Ky., suggests this name to address the struggle between those who insist on changing the name from Milton-Madison Bridge to Madison-Milton Bridge. She writes: “Everyone in Kentucky knows it’s the Milton-Madison Bridge. However, no one in Indiana wants to own up to that because of various reasons. Since we are so divided with the correct name, just call it the M&M Bridge. That way, Kentucky can say the name Milton comes first, and Indiana can say the name Madison comes first, and no one will be right or wrong.”
• Rogers and Clark Memorial Bridge. Ronald Hopper of Madison suggests this name to help resolve the bi-state naming argument. “I think this name may solve the issue that both Kentucky and Indiana claim the bridge as Milton-Madison or Madison-Milton Bridge. Rogers and Clark are historical figures of both states.”
• Freedom Bridge. Cathy Weedman of Westport, Ky., suggests this name to commemorate the Underground Railroad activity that once occurred in the area. “I feel Freedom Bridge is an appropriate name and just perfect for this bridge. Since the Ohio River was once used for an escape route for slaves, as noted in the history of our town of Westport, I feel it is important that the bridge be named for this history. The town of Westport, Ky., was once involved in the Underground Railroad. How historical!”
While these names may not be ideal, at least it shows some creativity among our readers and, in some cases, a desire to resolve the naming dispute that exists among many locals.
So what’s in a name? Plenty, if you consider that both states’ governors and other dignitaries are expected to arrive here soon to dedicate our beautiful, new bridge. If we are ever going to do it, now is the time to come up with a name that’s both fitting and satisfactory to residents on both side of the river.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.