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A lesson learned from the weekend’s bridge closure

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

Finally, the long-awaited first weekend closure of the Milton-Madison Bridge for structural repairs has come and gone. And think it may have been educational for many of us here in Trimble County.

First, knowing that the bridge would be closed, my Better Half and I traveled to Indianapolis on Saturday to visit family and wineries. (Not necessarily in that order.)

We debated over the best route back, because we knew we’d be returning after the 7 p.m. closure. To me, it seemed that it would take a lot longer to contine south on Interstate 65 to Louisville, then come back via Interstate 71, U.S. 42 and U.S. 421.

So, we decided to drive into Madison, as we normally would, then circle around to Milton via the Markland Dam.

At about 10 p.m., we were leaving Columbus, Ind., and heading home. We could see lightning in the distance; it was clear there was quite a storm south of us. I hoped out loud that the storm was right over Madison, and that it would be bad enough that the road crews would be forced to cancel the closure and the bridge would be open.

I was being selfish, I know. But, at that point, I knew it would be 11 p.m. by the time we got to Madison; the thought of driving that extra hour just to get to the other side of the river – less than a mile away, as the crow flies – made me feel more tired. I knew we wouldn’t get home until after midnight.

Needless to say, I didn’t get my wish. We found the bridge was, indeed, closed. It was raining lightly as we started east on State Hwy. 56. But then, we were hit with several heavy downpours that made it almost impossible to see the road. It was the longest part of our trip.

In the end, I realized something important – that I am now in favor of a completely new bridge connecting Milton to Madison. Either one of the new locations would be fine by me.

I think the alternative that involves building the new structure on the existing piers would be severely detrimental to residents – and businesses – on both sides of the Ohio River.

Imagine not being able to take that quick trip across the river to attend events, go shopping, eat out or visit friends and family. This, I think, quickly would become a nightmare for everyone who lives in Trimble and Carroll counties on the Kentucky side and Jefferson and Switzerland counties in the Hoosier State.

Madison businesses would lose a great number of customers – particularly from Trimble and the western portion of Carroll county. For residents on the east side of Carroll County, taking the Markland Dam route wouldn’t really add such a considerable amount of time and mileage to the trip.

It’s one thing to have the

bridge closed for a couple days at a time. Closing the bridge for a year or longer could actually change our shopping habits permanently, in some cases.

Yes, it might boost business in downtown Milton and Bedford, as they would be far more convenient than driving to La Grange or Carrollton. But, I don’t know if it would balance out the loss of revenue from their customers in Indiana.

People prefer to stick with what is familiar to them.Once they became used to shopping in other towns, would they fall back into their previous shopping patterns when the bridge reopens?

Maybe, maybe not.

It’s likely that trying to predict what might happen beyond completion of a new bridge is futile. But, it is worthwhile – before any decision is made on the bridge project – that we all think long and hard about what the reality will be if the access between these two cities and counties were cut off for such a long period of time.

Clearly, leaving residents without a convenient way to cross the river for a year or more would go against one of the priorities of the project team – maintaining “connectivity” between Milton and Madison.

Phyllis McLaughlin is editor of The Trimble Banner.