will have community scrambling
on stimulus grant
expected early this month
(February 2010) Mitigation sounds like a big word
to most people. To me, it represents government-speak for ease
your pain and would immediately be edited out of normal newspaper
copy by changing it to something that more resembles plain English.
Websters defines mitigate this way: To make less harsh
or hostile; to make less severe or painful.
But in the next few months, many of us residing here in the Ohio Valley
who depend on getting back and forth across the Ohio River from Milton,
Ky., to Madison, Ind., will be seeking mitigation in a big way.
If you have been attending the monthly Milton-Madison Bridge meetings
over the past year or have been reading reports about the proposed bridge
superstructure replacement, then you have likely heard or read about
economic mitigation funds that will be provided to help
offset the negative impact of the two-year project. Mitigation monies
will pay for such things as a two-vessel, 24-hour-a-day ferry service
to get people across the river; seminars to help business owners, marketing
dollars to promote the two cities before, during and after the anticipated
one-year bridge closure, and dozens of other perks to help save the
region from economic calamity.
In fact, before this process is over, you may begin to see billboards
and T-shirts shouting the slogan: Mitigate Me! The Bridge is Closing!
Actually a large marketing campaign is being planned
to help boost business in the region during the two-year project, but
the message will likely be much more sedate. Something like: Come
to Madison, but be sure to drive around. Our bridge is closed.
The 15-page Memorandum of Agreement, or MOA,
to which it is often referred in bridge meetings, outlines all the contractually
agreed-upon factors dealing with the colossal project. It includes all
the mitigation funding items. This is the primary document
that binds the two communities, historic preservation organizations
and federal, state and local governments. While the document has been
tweaked along way, the most recent draft is posted on the www.
MiltonMadisonBridge.com website and must be signed by all parties in
the immediate aftermath of the much-anticipated announcement for a $95
million federal stimulus grant to help fund the $131 million project.
While many expected that announcement would come in late January, it
is now expected to come in early February. Bridge consultants, including
John Carr of Wilbur Smith Associates Inc., the Lexington, Ky., firm
hired to guide the project, believe the grant is practically a sure
thing, but everything is on hold until the decision is made.
Once made, it will set in motion a series of events, most notably the
formation of a bid package to do the bridge replacement on top of the
80-year-old, existing concrete piers. The new bridge will feature a
deck that is twice as wide as it is now. It will have two 12-foot-wide
lanes, each with 10-foot shoulders, and a walkway for pedestrians. The
current bridge has two 10-foot-wide lanes and no shoulders or walkway.
But while all that metal and pavement is being stretched across the
Ohio River, the region must deal with the economic hardships associated
with the complete bridge shutdown, estimated to last from nine
to 12 months.
Thats where the mitigation funds come in. Consider these items
listed in the MOA:
$5 million for a free, 24-hour ferry service, with free parking
on both sides of the river for those who want to cross but leave their
$205,000 to the City of Madison to spend on a marketing
campaign to help promote tourism and local businesses (the tourism offices
current annual marketing budget is only $85,000);
$40,000 to the City of Milton to do the same;
Up to $40,000 per year for two years to conduct business
planning seminars for Milton and Madison business owners and employers
to prepare for the bridge closure six months out;
Money to hire a Historic Preservation Officer for $40,000
a year for two years to seek grants to and other assistance in improving
the Madison Historic District and National Landmark District;
More recently, officials have discussed adding a water taxi or helicopter
service for emergency and medical personnel needing to get to Kings
Daughters Hospital & Health Services. They are also exploring
a bus service, similar to Catch-A-Ride, to carry people from the ferry
landing up into the city of Madison.
Mitigation is starting to sound pretty good at this point, but we will
still be saddled with lane closures off and on all this year while they
conduct repairs to the existing bridge, and up to an entire year, beginning
in January 2011, with no bridge at all. The ferry service is projected
to only carry 40 percent of the current daily bridge traffic about
11,000 vehicles a day. While much of that traffic accounts for leisure
travelers who would likely choose not to cross the ferry, no one has
been able to predict just how long the wait will be for those people
who need to cross the ferry each day for work or school or commerce.
As for the marketing campaign, I can see the advertisements now: Come
to Madison and ride the ferry! Or maybe: Take a leisurely
cruise across the Ohio! Or how about: Spend a day on the
Ohio River literally.
Perhaps the bridge project will spawn a new generation of entrepreneurs
in the region? We may see private boat owners hauling their friends
across the river for a few bucks. Or Billy Bobs Beer Service,
whereby fishing boats are loaded with cases of Bud and Miller Lite and
hauled over to Trimble County (a dry county) for a profit. Madison has
long struggled to find a company to offer leisure boat cruises on the
Ohio River, so maybe the time is finally right?
Swimming lessons may be next.
Maybe they can mitigate that.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner
of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.
Back to the Milton-Madison Bridge Article