News and Tribune

Clark County

May 13, 2008

Workers will examine Big Four next month; not anticipating structural damage after fire

It will be weeks before inspectors determine if any structural damage was caused to the Big Four bridge during last week’s fire.

Officials are hopeful that any damage is limited, as a plan to convert the abandoned railroad bridge into a pedestrian crossing over the Ohio River moves forward.

“We’re really not anticipating any problems,” said Mike Kimmel, deputy director of Louisville’s Waterfront Development Corp. “There’s been three fires up there that haven’t affected the steel. And this one was put out a little quicker.”

Kimmel said it was railroad ties that burned Wednesday. Kentucky firefighters battled the blaze from a boat below the bridge. The fire is suspected to have been caused by an electric problem in one of the navigation lights below the bridge’s deck. The lights are used to guide river traffic.

Electrical inspections were scheduled to take place on Monday. They’ve been delayed by rainy weather the last few days. Structural inspectors will go onto the bridge in about a month, Kimmel said. After that, it will take a few weeks to get the final verdict.

Completion of the Big Four project hinges on federal funding coming through, Kimmel said. About $13 million in federal highway dollars has been requested.

There is a $50 million plan to put a pedestrian crossing on a proposed new downtown bridge. If the Big Four project gets built with federal money, there would be no need for that crossing, Kimmel said.

Therefore the Big Four project “would be a great savings.”

Louisville is already building the ramp that will be used by pedestrians to get on the bridge. Jeffersonville is still determining the design of the approach it will need to build, said Jim Urban, Jeffersonville’s Planning Director.

Initially, the design was to have a sidewalk-like approach stretch from beneath the bridge out over the Ohio River and then double back onto the bridge deck; a column would be constructed on the water’s edge up to the bridge, which would be used to support the structure.

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