"What are you going to do when the bridge
Thats a question I hear often. My response: I guess Ill
ride the ferry like everyone else.
It seems simple enough. But who really knows what THATS going to
be like? How long will it take? How long will I have to sit in line? Will
it be worth it? Will life cease to exist as I know it?
I cross the Milton-Madison Bridge at least twice a day, on average. Sometimes
four or even six times. I have a farm in Milton but live in Madison. I
operate a newspaper based in Madison that serves southern Indiana but
also a second edition serving six neighboring Kentucky counties. I need
that bridge for my livelihood.
And I am not alone. Hundreds of local commuters, truckers, farmers, teachers,
students and business people use that bridge daily to get to work, school,
church, grocery stores, medical and dental appointments or
simply to conduct business. What are they planning to do? Are they even
thinking about it?
Will they change their shopping habits? Switch churches? Quit or change
jobs? Drop out or of school, transfer or delay their education?
Many people are angry, frustrated or even outraged at the mere thought
of closing the 80-year-old bridge for up to a year or more to replace
the superstructure atop the existing piers, rather than build a new bridge
nearby. But the lack of money to do the latter has led us to this replacement
Meantime, many in the community are saddened at the apparent loss of a
historic structure our 1929 truss bridge in a town
that has built its reputation on historic preservation. The idea of building
a new bridge and preserving the existing structure for a walking and bicycling
crossing is dead.
So now what? How do we as citizens prepare for such a magnanimous construction
effort? Will it really only take one year? Can anyone predict the environmental
or weather factors that could delay the project? What can we do to prepare?
And do we really have any choice?
Downtown Madison retailers recall how they lost up to 40 percent of their
business from Trimble and Carroll countians when the bridge was reduced
to one lane for rehabilitation or painting in previous years. They fear
the worst at the mere thought of a complete bridge closure.
The situation is even worse for Trimble Countians. Consider: the nearest
hospital is Carrollton or La Grange; the nearest Wal-mart is Carrollton
or La Grange; the nearest movie theater is La Grange; the nearest fitness
center is Carrollton or La Grange; the nearest dry cleaner, tire dealer
and shoe store is Carrollton or La Grange; with the exception of Subway
in Bedford, the nearest fast-food restaurant is Carrollton or La Grange;
the nearest liquor store is Carrollton or La Grange (Trimble County is
Are you starting to see the trend here? Our shopping and travel habits
are about to take a dramatic turn. Will they be forever changed, even
in the aftermath of this colossal project?
Perhaps not surprisingly, not everyone is just sitting back waiting to
see what happens. For example, both the city of Madison and a separate
grassroots group are exploring the operation of a local shuttle to transport
people from the ferry dock to various points around Madison. One of Madisons
largest churches, North Madison Christian Church, is devising a plan to
open a second church in Trimble County to provide services to its many
Kentucky members during the bridge closure. Some of the areas larger
companies have been asked to consider staggering their employee work schedules
to lessen the amount of traffic during the typical rush hours to help
alleviate the burden on the free, 24-hour, two-vessel ferry crossing.
Bridge consultants managing the project are considering adding a separate
EMT boat or possibly a helicopter to handle emergencies in getting people
across the river to Kings Daughters Hospital & Health
But have we thought of everything? What about barges, fishing and pleasure
boats that use the river? What about getting tourists to Madison? What
about weekend boaters who travel to Madison to attend its major festivals?
What about the running of the Madison Regatta?
How will these be affected?
Although the Milton-Madison Bridge connects two separate states, we are
essentially one community. And it will take a community wide effort to
pull this off. The pain, though short-term, will hopefully lead to long-term
gain. Soon, we will have a new bridge, complete with wider lanes and shoulders
and a pedestrian crossing something we did not have before. It
may not be historic, but it will be functional and new and without
a 15-ton weight limit to keep it from falling into the river.
Despite my fears of how my life and business are about to change while
the bridge replacement project takes place, I try to remain optimistic
and see the glass half full. So instead of asking people what they are
going to do when the bridge closes, I am slowly learning to accept the
inevitable and ask: What are you going to do until the new bridge
While this subtle change in wording may seem purely semantics, it helps
me focus on the optimistic notion that someday this, too, shall pass.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.