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MADISON, Ind. –“We are so excited,” said Trimble County Judge-Executive Randy Stevens, smiling broadly after a Monday news conference with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Madison’s City Hall.
Stevens said he and other Trimble officials are thrilled to see the project moving forward, especially “after seeing things go backward, with the weight-limit reduction, and the poor rating [of the bridge].”
LaHood came to Madison to personally pledge the $20 million in federal funds awarded for replacement of the Milton-Madison Bridge.
During the conference, Stevens told the crowd, “There is no doubt, today is the biggest success story; the greatest political announcement.”
Despite the competition from leaders in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky and Louisville areas, who want bridge funding “out of convenience,” Stevens said the grant shows “this bridge is now a necessity. ... This is the type of money needed to motivate both states’ general assemblies to work together for funding.”
In a phone interview Friday, Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong – who hosted LaHood’s visit – also expressed excitement over the project. “Looking at the big picture, out of $1.5 billion, only 51 projects were funded, and we were one of those. We are very fortunate.”
Though the grant was significantly less than the states had sought, “this shows the importance of the project from the federal side and to both states, how important it is to the two communities and to the region.”
On Monday, Armstrong said, “today is only the second best day. The best day will be in the next couple of years when we cut the ribbon” on the new bridge.
And that’s a day LaHood said he hopes to be back to witness. “I hope to come back, cut the ribbon and maybe be one of the first people to cross the new bridge.”
“I’m excited from the standpoint that my beginning in the project goes back to 1986,” said Jack Couch. Couch, a former Trimble judge-executive, is executive director of the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency.
Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson Jr. said Monday that it’s good to see that the new bridge will finally be built.
He said he’s talked with Stevens and more discussions are planned to devise regional solutions to problems closure of the existing bridge will cause during the replacement phase of the project.
The crossing could be closed for as long as 12 months while the superstructure is replaced.
“We’re ready to help in any way we can to eliminate some of the hardships and headaches, and economic expense” closure of the bridge may bring to area residents who rely on the bridge to travel back and forth, especially for work.
Tomlinson said he plans to work with Stevens and sit with representatives of businesses and industry whose employees work on one side of the river but live on the other.
“We’ve got a lot of investment here on both sides of the river; we take care of this whole region [providing jobs] in Jefferson County, Trimble County and Carroll County,” Tomlinson said.