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Milton-Madison Bridge reopens a day early

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By Dave Taylor

Due to an outstanding effort by work crews and the cooperation of the weather, the Milton-Madison Bridge reopened 24 hours ahead of schedule at 11:59 p.m., Saturday.

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The bridge was closed at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, April 25, for the demolition of the original approach spans and the connection of new temporary ramps to the existing 82-year-old span. The closure had been announced to last through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The weather cooperated for the operation until the last hours on Saturday; however, workmen completed the paving and final touches on the bridge in a downpour.

Receiving word through an unknown source that the reopening was imminent, motorists began lining the streets and highways leading to the bridge late Saturday in anticipation of motoring across the new approach spans and once again enjoying the convenience of the only Ohio River bridge between Louisville, 46 miles downriver, and Markland Dam, 26 miles upstream.

The use of temporary ramps is one in a series of steps being taken to keep the bridge open to traffic during construction. Numerous residents of the local area who work in one state and reside in the other were forced to drive to the dam and take a circuitous route to work or home. Trimble County High School students were forced to take the long way around to their prom held Saturday night at Hanover College. A tour bus had been chartered for the safety of the students, but a number of students elected to make the drive by car.

A 36-foot vehicle length restriction is now in effect for the bridge due to the limited turn radius of the temporary ramps. The existing 3-ton weight limit for the bridge remains in place. Law enforcement continues to patrol both sides of the bridge to ensure motorists observe the restrictions.

The original approach to the bridge on the Indiana side is now gone, removed by demolition crews on Wednesday through Friday. Some sections of remaining steel were being loaded into recycle bins Monday by Omega Demolition Corporation, based in Elgin, Ill. Sections of the steel trusses for the original Milton approach to the bridge were still in place on Monday. The concrete roadway was hammered away during the first hours of the closure and enough of the former span was totally removed to enable workers to connect the temporary Kentucky ramp with its two 90-degree turns to the bridge.

The replacement of the Milton-Madison Bridge originally entailed a year-long closure. But innovative design and construction methods by contractor Walsh Construction Company made it possible for the bridge to remain open during construction for all but a total of 10 days. Using a method called “truss sliding,” the new 2,400-foot-long steel truss bridge will be built on temporary piers and slid into place on top of the existing piers, which are being strengthened to meet modern standards. Two of the temporary piers are in place and being readied for the first section of truss to be lifted into place in the coming months.

Construction began last year and is expected to be complete in 2013.