Construction activities on the Indiana and Kentucky approaches to the east-end bridge began this week.
Tree clearing and vacant building demolition is under way in Kentucky and site preparation work was scheduled to begin Friday, according to Indiana Department of Transportation Spokesman Will Wingfield.
Clarksville-based Gohmann Construction Inc. will perform work in Prospect, Ky., with the installation of signage and sediment/erosion control measures, while Dan Cristiani Excavating, also of Clarksville, will perform the work in Utica, according to a press release from the Ohio River Bridges Project. Due to environmental requirements, trees must be cut before April 1. Impacts to forested areas are being mitigated by planting or preserving additional areas of trees outside of the construction limits, according to an INDOT press release.
While the tree clearing will be highly visible proof that work is moving forward on the east-end portion of the Ohio River Bridges project — which will build the east-end bridge, a downtown bridge and rebuilt Spaghetti Junction in Louisville — another visual aspect of the project has left some residents disappointed.
WVB East End Partners in its project bid changed the design of the east-end bridge from a median-tower, cabled-stayed bridge chosen by the state to a convex diamond-tower, cable-stayed structure.
The change, for some nearby residents, was not met with adoration.
“I’m disappointed, truthfully,” said Welby Edwards, a Quarry Bluff resident. “The other bridge was absolutely fabulous.”
He said once the east-end bridge has been completed, he will be able to see it from his back porch. And the previous bridge design, Edwards felt, would be a asset to Utica where the Indiana approach would connect to the bridge. He even said he believed it would be so much of a draw that it could boost property values around the area because of people wanting to have views of the new span.
“It’s just a beautiful structure,” he said of the median-tower design. “It was wide open. It just had elegance to it. It was not going to be an eyesore. They solved a lot of problems by putting a beautiful bridge in there. It wouldn’t have been utilitarian, it was going to be something worth looking at.
“[Now] it’s a bridge that’s not going to be anything you’re going to brag about.”
Both bridges are described as being open designs, resembling a sailboat in the water. The difference between the two is largely the median-tower, cable-stayed bridge pole and support was located in the center of the bridge, while the convex diamond-tower cable-stayed bridge’s two main support structures attach to the outer portions of the bridge.
Beyond the aesthetic, Edwards questioned why a design change was made now.
“I don’t understand how you have one bridge for six years and change it at the last minute?” he asked. “That’s what they sold us, that’s what they should build,” he said of the original design.
Edwards wasn’t the only one that preferred the design chosen by the state.
“Aesthetically, I think I like the previous one better,” said Utica Town Board President Hank Dorman.
However, he said he believes the span that will likely be constructed by WVB will be a very attractive bridge.
Doorman, too, questioned the changes being made to the project plan at this point.
“I didn’t realize they had given the contractors the ability to change that design,” he said.