News and Tribune

April 18, 2013

Open house focuses on how bridges will look

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

UTICA —

While other viewings have focused on numbers and specifics, residents got to see how the east-end bridge and its approaches will actually look on Wednesday.

The Indiana Department of Transportation and WVB East End Partners hosted an open-house session to show the aesthetic side of the Ohio River Bridges Project at Utica Community Center. 

But some residents said they were just happy the bridge was actually coming together at all.

Jeff Leach, a 68-year-old Jeffersonville resident, said after 20 years of hearing about bridges, he’s glad to see groundbreaking on the way.

“After about 20 years [of promises], you get a little lackadaisical,” Leach said. 

Greg Creamer, design quality assurance manager for Ohio River Bridges East End Crossing, said a lot of people were interested in how the bridge will actually look and are happy to see the project coming along.

“I heard a lady say she didn’t think it would happen in her lifetime, so I’ll take that as a positive,” Creamer said. “There’s been a lot of skepticism I guess, but we’re on time now.”

Ron Heustis, INDOT project manager for the Ohio River Bridges Project, said the last sessions focused more on specific questions about how the bridge would be built, but showing people an idea of what the end product would look like was important for Wednesday’s session.

He also said while the designs shown were more solid than the original concepts, they’re still flexible. He said primarily, they wanted to get input from the community to weigh in with the final project designs.

Leach said he’s heard a lot about tolls and opposition, but it didn’t sound as bad as he’d anticipated. He said in Florida, commuters have to pay about $5 to cross a bridge.

He said while the $1 tolls in Kentuckiana sound more reasonable, he’s not sure about tolls on existing bridges to pay for the new one.

“I’m not really for it, but I’m not a commuter,” Leach said. “I might drive across the bridge two or three times a year. But I can’t imagine someone not paying a $1 toll to get from one side to other.”

Heustis next open-house session will focus more on other specific construction questions, including blasting on both sides of the river and to handle how public traffic management.