First of two closings set for bridge project

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

State officials have announced the planned dates for the first of two five-day closures during the replacement of the Milton-Madison Bridge.

The bridge will be closed April 25-29, during which time crews with Walsh Construction will work around the clock to remove the existing approaches on both sides of the river and attach the temporary approaches to the 82-year-old Ohio River span.

During the closure, travelers will be routed 26 miles east to the Markland Dam linking Gallatin County, Ky., and Switzerland County, Ind., or 46 miles west to Louisville. A ferry will be in place for emergency services only.

Project leaders will host a public meeting from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, March 22, at the Brown Gym on Broadway in Madison, Ind., to provide area residents with an in-depth update on the project. A presentation will be given at 7 p.m.

Through the fall and winter, Indiana and Kentucky – and points east – have experienced record rainfall, which has led to five “high-water events” on the river, Andy Barber, bridge project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said Monday. Though there has been no serious land flooding, the river level has been high enough to overflow into the coffer dams built for workers around the base of each of the piers.

Heavy rains last week and over the weekend led to a sixth high-water event, again forcing workers out of the coffer dams, Barber said.

Reinforcement of Pier 3, the one in the river closest to the Kentucky side, is completed, but the rains have kept workers from moving concrete forms to Pier 4 mid-river, where the next concrete pour is set to begin. The delay is forcing officials to move the project completion date from late 2012 to some time in the first half of 2013, he said.

On the bright side, Barber said the delay in completion will not cause any additional problems for travelers and local residents; no matter when the span is completed, the bridge will only be closed for those two five-day periods. The second closure will occur when the finished replacement bridge is slid into place onto the reinforced piers.

It would have been a much different story, he said, had project officials opted to go the conventional route, closing the crossing to build a new span directly on the existing piers. The rain and high-water delays experienced so far probably would have lengthened that closure, which would have been for at least a year, and, likely, interrupted ferry service that was to be in place to take drivers back and forth across the river in the interim, he said.

In the meantime, Walsh crews are putting the finishing touches on a 600-foot span of the truss bridge, being built on barges on the Milton side. Once the temporary piers are in place, just a few feet west of the existing bridge, that section will be lifted in place and crews will begin work on a 727-foot span on the barges.

Once area asphalt plants open for spring construction, crews will begin to pave the temporary ramps in Milton and Madison to prepare for the switchover in April, Barber said.