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Find commuter solutions now, before bridge closes

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

Kentucky and Indiana legislators are working now to determine how to pay their share of the $111 million not funded by the federal government for the Milton-Madison Bridge project.

The good news is each state has agreed to foot half of the bill; the Kentucky House of Representatives included Kentucky’s share in its version of the state road fund in the proposed 2010-12 budget. Indiana transportation officials say they have funding sources to cover their $55.5 million share, too.

Good or bad, receiving only partial funding for the bridge project through the TIGER grant means the project will be delayed somewhat. The bidding process won’t start until summer, so work won’t begin on the project until early fall. Work on the piers originally was to begin in June.

This means area residents have more time to work together to find creative ways to deal with daily commutes from one side of the Ohio to the other, once the existing bridge is closed for demolition. That target date was to be February 2011; now it may be May 2011.

I’ve been thinking about this situation a lot. My husband and I go to Madison almost daily from Milton to shop, eat out or go to movies. But, we don’t have to worry about rush-hour traffic and can go at our leisure. The ferry probably will work out fine for us. If the line is too long, we’ll just go someplace else.

For Indiana and Kentucky employers with workers who commute across the river daily, the most important thing is to work together – as Judge-Executive Randy Stevens has suggested – to stagger shifts to eliminate as much “rush hour” traffic as possible, and to provide car- or van-pooling options to help maximize use of the ferries throughout the day.

Former Trimble J-E Jack Couch said his organization, the Kentuckiana Planning and Development Agency based in Louisville, is considering sending some of their ride-share vans to help commuters.

That’s a fine idea.

Here’s one I came up with: Match people who commute one way with someone whose commute is the opposite; they could work out a deal to trade homes during the week. It’s a recent trend for vacations that I’ve heard about in the past couple of years: One traveler who wants to vacation in a particular city is matched with someone from that location who is interested in vacationing where that traveler lives. Basically, they simply swap homes for a week or two.

That could work for some people here. Someone from Milton who works at, say, Grote Co., could trade homes with another person from Madison who works at LG&E or Dow Corning. On the weekends, they could swap back.

The bridge will be closed, and it will take several months before the new span will be opened. That’s a fact. So, I encourage our public officials to host meetings with employers – and anyone who relies on the bridge – to brainstorm solutions to make the closure less painful for everyone. We’ve got the time, and it would be a shame to let any opportunities pass us by.

 

Phyllis McLauglin is editor of The Trimble Banner and lives in Milton, Ky.