News and Tribune

May 15, 2013

Push to open K & I Bridge could result in lawsuit

Coffey: Kroger should pay for new fire station

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY —

Ohio River Greenway Project Coordinator Shaunna Graf said the struggle to open the K & I Bridge to pedestrians could end in a lawsuit if Norfolk Southern Corp. doesn’t “play nice.” 

Graf presented the New Albany Redevelopment Commission Tuesday with an annual update of the Ohio River Greenway. Along with the drive to secure more funds to complete the path, Graf said opening the K & I Bridge is a major priority, as it would connect New Albany with the Louisville neighborhood of Portland. 

“It’s gotten a lot of buzz lately so I’m very happy,” she said of recent media reports from Kentucky and Indiana that have focused on reopening the railroad bridge. 

The span has been closed to public transit since 1979, and Norfolk Southern has claimed there are safety and liability risks the company would assume if the bridge were reopened. 

The push now is for Norfolk Southern to clearly define those concerns and their reasons for not allowing pedestrian use of the span, and officials such as U.S. Rep. Todd Young are serving as mediators in the process, Graf said. 

Though Norfolk Southern is privately-owned, Graf said the matter could ultimately result in a lawsuit if the company doesn’t work with the public to address the issues. 

Norfolk Southern last formally rejected a request to open the bridge in 2010. In February, Young met with railroad officials and toured the bridge, though he described his role as more of a facilitator than as a policy maker. 

New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan has stated his desire to see the bridge reopened. The Louisville Metro Council has also offered a non-binding resolution requesting Norfolk Southern reopen the bridge to pedestrians and bicyclists. 

 

Coffey: Kroger should pay for fire house

With New Albany and Kroger moving closer to a deal for the grocery chain to purchase the Green Valley Road fire station, City Councilman and redevelopment member Dan Coffey said the city shouldn’t sell itself short. 

David Duggins, director of redevelopment and economic development for the city, said a proposal to build a new fire station off Daisy Lane will be presented to the New Albany Board of Zoning Appeals next month. 

It would take the place of the Green Valley Road station and property, which is being sought by Kroger for an expansion. 

A deal hasn’t been finalized, but Coffey said Kroger should pay enough so that the new fire station can be constructed without an additional cost to taxpayers. 

“It shouldn’t be costing us a penny,” Coffey said. “That property is valuable to them. Extremely valuable.” 

An appraisal commissioned by the administration valued the Green Valley Road firehouse property at $375,000, but that didn’t include the worth of the building. 

Coffey requested Duggins seek another appraisal, as he added even if Kroger doesn’t plan on using the building, it should be factored into the worth of the property. 

The BZA has already approved using the former Camille Wright pool site for a fire station, but the property was instead chosen by the administration for the new outdoor aquatic center. 

Though Gahan said he didn’t feel the Camille Wright pool property was a good site for a new fire station, the land that would be used for the firehouse under the latest proposal is only about 50 feet away. 

Though several residents complained about the lighting and noise associated with building a fire station along West Daisy Lane, the BZA approved the administration-backed request. 

Administration officials initially said Kroger would pay for a new fire station as part of the purchase. However, some additional amenities have been requested by the New Albany Fire Department that drove up the estimated costs of the station