By BRADEN LAMMERS
Its highly anticipated opening has been delayed again.
While progress on the Big Four bicycle and pedestrian bridge continues to move forward, construction crews will not have the project complete by its Nov. 1 deadline. And no new definitive completion date has been set — meaning Jeffersonville could continue to miss out on thousands of potential visitors and the money they could be spending at downtown businesses.
Jeffersonville City Engineer Andy Crouch said the hope is that the bridge will be completed by the end of November.
A new completion date of Nov. 1 was targeted after it was announced earlier this summer that the lighting would not be installed on Indiana’s ramp until this fall. Rails are currently being installed on the project and the lighting will not be able to be completed until the steel rails have been erected the length of the bridge ramp, said Joe Middeler, area engineer for the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Bicyclists and pedestrians will not be permitted on the bridge until the lighting has been completed.
The delay has pushed the Indiana ramp more than six months behind schedule. An original date for Jeffersonville’s side of the bridge to open was in April. Kentucky’s ramp in Waterfront Park, and the completed deck of the bridge, opened in February. But when pedestrians get to the Indiana state line, they are met with a barricade.
Opening the pedestrian span is expected to have a major impact on downtown Jeffersonville. Several recently announced businesses are racing to open before the pedestrian crossing is finished and the construction of the Big Four Station, a two-block park at the foot of the Big Four Bridge landing, is underway.
Earlier this year a study a count of users entering on the Kentucky side of the Big Four Bridge during a nine-day period in June showed that 45,000 pedestrians and 4,500 bicyclists accessed the bridge. The influx of people on the bridge — and likely into Jeffersonville — has been stopped, for now.
A change in the lighting setup on Indiana’s bridge ramp was the cause for the original delay. Jeffersonville agreed to redesign the lights for its bridge ramp from the post lighting, similar to what is installed on the Louisville side of the bridge, to lights that are in the ramp’s handrails. The change was made to better fit the historic Rose Hill neighborhood and ensure the lights did not affect the nearby residences.
Engineer Burleigh Law with HNTB, requested additional task orders from the city’s Redevelopment Commission in June, which included $20,000 for post design services on the ramp’s lighting contract. When he made the request, he said he believed there was still five months of construction work remaining and the ramp would be completed some time in November.
While Crouch said the hope is that the bridge will be open by the end of November, Middeler would not offer a guess as to when the bridge will be completed.
Middeler did say the state is making every effort to get the bridge open as soon as possible.
In addition to the change in the lighting, another delay on the project was caused because there was an issue with the steel box girders installed on the ramp.
Once the girders were installed, it was discovered that the steel was deflecting. To correct the issue a temporary support was installed under the first span along Chestnut Street.
According to a list of change orders for the project the temporary support — change order 7 in March — was cited as a design error or omission and cost $114,541 to correct.
“This work had to be done after girders in span G deflected under self-loading more than planned,” according to the description in the change order. “It was discovered upon review that an error had been made in the design. The temporary support is to raise the girders up in place while the concrete for the deck is placed.”
According to a statement previously issued on the city of Jeffersonville’s website, Crouch said a design engineer was brought in to inspect the bridge when the issues with the steel occurred. The city was assured that the issues with the steel do not affect the safety or longevity of the structure, Crouch wrote.
Two change orders were also included among a list of changes to install the lighting on the bridge. The two change orders submitted equaled $50,588 and $52,830, respectively.