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February 8, 2013

Young tours K & I Bridge in New Albany amid push to reopen span

Gahan: We will invest time, money to see bridge opened to pedestrians

NEW ALBANY — Though no change in the company’s stance on allowing pedestrians and bikers to cross the span, U.S. Rep. Todd Young toured the K & I Bridge with Norfolk Southern Corp. officials Friday.

Norfolk Southern owns the bridge, and it has been closed to public transit since 1979. The railroad company last officially rejected a request to reopen the bridge in 2010.

In April, Young met with New Albany and Louisville residents that want the bridge opened to pedestrians. Young spokesman Trevor Foughty said Friday’s visit was a chance for the congressman to view the bridge and hear some of the concerns of the railroad company.

Foughty stressed that there isn’t much of a federal role in the issue, but that Young is attempting to serve as a liaison between the public and Norfolk Southern.

The railroad company has maintained there’s safety and liability risks if the bridge were to reopen, and Foughty said Young’s meeting didn’t change Norfolk Southern’s  position.

“I greatly appreciate the time Norfolk-Southern generously spent with me to give me a tour of the K & I Bridge, and to explain their sincere safety and operational concerns related to opening the bridge to interstate bike and pedestrian traffic,” Young said in a statement following the tour.

The media wasn’t invited to attend the meeting.

“While the legal and policy issues related to the potential projects are mostly local in nature, I look forward to learning more,” Young said. “I will also continue to facilitate meetings and open dialogue between local officials, businesses, and concerned citizens when I can.”

The push to reopen the K & I — which connects New Albany to the Louisville neighborhood of Portland — was heightened when the Sherman Minton Bridge closed temporarily in 2011. Area planners have also sought to incorporate the bridge into the Ohio River Greenway.

New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan wants to see the Greenway loop completed by connecting it with the K & I. He said the city has explored how much it would cost to build a ramp leading to the span on the New Albany side of the bridge.

He also referenced a study he said he will release more details on later this month that supports a public interest in the K & I Bridge.

“I’m in possession of a study that makes a pretty compelling case that the K & I should be opened,” Gahan said.

It would have a huge impact on the Vincennes Street corridor if pedestrians could cross the bridge, he continued.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’re prepared to invest some time and some money and some energy into exploring all the options to see if we can get the bridge reopened,” Gahan said.

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