News and Tribune

Editorials

May 21, 2014

OUR OPINION: Big Four Bridge was worth the wait

— Yes, Tom Petty, you were dead on: The waiting was definitely the hardest part.

But the opening of the Jeffersonville ramp to the Big Four Bridge on Tuesday had many singing the praises of the span, which now leads pedestrians and bikers to and from the downtowns of Jeffersonville and Louisville.

The verdict of some of the first members of the public to cross the refurbished former railroad bridge: We’ve got a big hit on our hands.

Take it from Ann Lewis, 59, who lives on Spring Street in Jeffersonville.

“I’ve been waiting for this for years,” she said. “I absolutely love it. It’s going to be so great from Jeffersonville, for our economy. It’s going to bring the two cities together.

The Big Four wholly opened Tuesday in quick fashion, especially compared to the time residents of the area had to wait for the Indiana portion to be completed.

The Louisville ramp — more swirly in nature than its semi-linear Indiana counterpart — opened in February 2013, as did the deck of the bridge.

As last winter turned to spring and then three more seasons came and went, people grew impatient. Each delay to the ramp’s opening brought with it pointed fingers. Who was to blame for Indiana’s side remaining closed?

But anyone who walked up on the bridge’s deck during the past 15 months could marvel at the views, and those with vision beyond the present could see the promise in the bridge.

Louisville’s ramp empties into Waterfront Park — a great public space along the Ohio River. At the foot of Jeffersonville’s ramp is an under-construction, much smaller park, Big Four Station.

Beyond that, but very close, is what downtown Jeffersonville can offer people who cross over the bridge and hike or bike down the ramp.

First is a historic district filled with character and great homes and buildings. Second is the restaurant and retail attractions, whether it be the old — Schimpff’s Confectionery opened in 1891 — or the brand new, like Red Yeti Brewing Co., a restaurant and bar that opened Monday. Third is the free concerts and events on RiverStage and Warder Park.

But the bridge, thankfully, goes both ways. On Wednesday, May 29, WFPK radio in Louisville will host its second Waterfront Wednesday of the season, a free live-music showcase which draws thousands to the foot of Louisville’s bridge.

Won’t it be nice to park in downtown Jeffersonville, grab a bite and a beer and walk over to catch the show [the ramp is a great viewing area by the way] without being bothered with parking on River Road or nearby streets.

Trust us, that will be really nice. The bridge itself is really, really nice. It will be a defining factor for downtown Jeffersonville and a catalyst for new business for years to come.

It took a long time for the plan to be realized, but now that it has, it’s a big deal. Kudos and thanks to those who made it happen.

The Ohio River — and now a fantastic pedestrian bridge — is what connects us, not what divides the two states. It’s shared history, and now shared space.

The waiting is over, now get out and enjoy the Big Four.

— The News and Tribune editorial board is comprised of Publisher Bill Hanson, Editor Shea Van Hoy, Assistant Editor Chris Morris and Assistant Editor Jason Thomas. Responses can be sent to shea.vanhoy@newsandtribune.com

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