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MADISON, Ind. – In keeping with the spirit of the proposed 10-day closure of the span they are about to replace, officials kept the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Milton-Madison Bridge Project short and sweet.
Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong introduced the state and federal dignitaries invited to speak at the event, which was moved indoors from the bridge site to the Brown Auditorum because of rain.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood each hailed the project as a tribute to what can happen when local and state governments and federal agencies forego bipartisanship and cooperate.
Beshear likened the current project to 1929, when the existing bridge was completed and opened when the country was “on the verge of the Great Depression.”
At that time, the bridge provided better transportation, economic development and a better quality of life for area residents, Beshear said. “Like our predecessors, we are solving that challenge by working together and finding a solution together.
Daniels said the project proves what someone once told him long ago – “a budget crunch is an opportunity to innovate. ... This is a fascinating approach that represents a breakthrough. I’m proud we are associated with innovating thinking.”
Daniels was referring to the plan by Walsh Construction, who won the bid for the project, to build the new structure on temporary piers, so that the crossing is closed to traffic for just 10 days – five to switch approaches to the new bridge structure and, once the old bridge is demolished, five days to hydraulically move the new structure onto the improved existing piers.
The new bridge is expected to be completed by September 2012.
“It will be done faster than anyone thought, and with only 10 days’ closure,” Daniels said. “What is not to like?”
LaHood commended both governors for their dedication to the project.
“I’ve worked with a lot of governors,” he said. “These two decided early on they wanted to be part of making progress in their states. They represent extraordinary leadership, when it comes to transportation. I thank them for stepping up.”
LaHood also gave credit to President Barak Obama for creating the economic stimulus package that provided the federal funding to “help jumpstart” the Milton-Madison Bridge project.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $48 billion for infrastructure projects nationwide, including the $1.5 billion used for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grant program. The Milton-Madison Bridge project received $20 million in federal TIGER funds in February.
All told, LaHood said stimulus funds aided 15,000 projects and “gave thousands of people good-paying jobs. ... Without it, roads would not be resurfaced and bridges would not be [built]. You, as citizens, should be proud; your tax dollars coud not be better spent.”
Also attending the ceremony were Trimble County Judge-Executive Randy Stevens; Magistrates Nolan Hamilton Jr., David Scott, Kirby Melvin and Stephen Stark; Milton Mayor Denny Jackson; and Bedford resident and state Rep. Rick Rand, D-47th District.