News and Tribune

February 7, 2014

NASH: A bridge by any other name

By MATTHEW NASH
Local columnist

— I thought that we would have a couple more years before we had to worry about the next phase of the Ohio River Bridges Project. It looks like a couple of go-getters in the Kentucky General Assembly have gotten the ball rolling earlier than I had expected.

 Last week they introduced  legislation to name the new downtown span across the Ohio River  and have chosen the 40th president of the United States for the honor.

I always thought when the time came to pick a name for the bridges they would just find a corporation that was willing to pay for the naming rights. They could offset the cost of the tolls that local commuters will be paying by turning the thing into a giant billboard. I think there are plenty of companies that would love to hear their names repeated multiple times daily on local radio and television traffic reports. Of course we might not need traffic reports anymore once these bridges are built.

I think the best bet would be to approach Dominos about naming it after them. Louisville already has Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and the Yum Center with the Pizza Hut Logo. Dominoes would make it a pizza trifecta. On second thought maybe naming a bridge after a game that you knock down the pieces doesn’t send the right message.

If there is no corporation that is willing to fork over the money to use their product or name on our bridge, I guess it would have to be named after someone. If it turns out that it is named after a president, I don’t necessarily believe that Ronald Reagan would be the best choice. Although many people feel strongly for the “Gipper,” he really had no connection to this region at all.

 Maybe we could find a president that was from Kentucky to name the span after. Better yet maybe there was a president that was born in Kentucky and later moved to Indiana. I’m sure a Google search will turn up someone.

If lawmakers are insistent that we name the bridge after a 20th century Republican president, perhaps we could name it after Gerald Ford. The only president that was never elected by the American people, it only makes sense to name the bridge where public input was totally disregarded. On second thought, naming the bridge after Richard Nixon would be more appropriate.  

What if we don’t name it after a  politician at all. There are plenty of famous people from this region that would be great to be immortalized. I assume that they will only consider a deceased person so I guess George Clooney and Johnny Depp are out of the question. At least that would mean any of the Judds would be too.

Kentuckians and Hoosiers love their sports heroes so maybe we should consider going in that direction.  Pee Wee Reese the hall of fame baseball player would be a great choice as would many outstanding basketball players from the state. Johnny Unitas would also be a good choice having been a big part of the University of Louisville and his professional career with the Colts who now make their home in Indianapolis.

If Kentucky gets to choose the name for the downtown bridge does that mean that Indiana gets to name the east end bridge? There are several Hoosiers that I would love to have the bridge named after.

Gus Grissom would be a great choice to name the bridge after. A Southern Indiana native that was one of the pioneers of the of the United States space program would be worthy of the honor. I think Cole Porter would also be an interesting choice. The legendary Broadway composer who was famous for his musical “Kiss me Kate” and “Anything Goes.”

Frankfort and Indianapolis are pretty far away from these bridges and they have done very little toward funding them so why should they have a say in what they will be called? I can’t imagine more than a handful of lawmakers from either state crossing either of the bridges very often.

When the Louisville Zoo has an animal born they have a contest to name the new arrival.  What if they used this method to name the new bridges. Citizens could nominate their favorite choices and then people could vote on the one they like best. This would keep the name of the bridge as a regional thing instead of counting on legislators to get the name right.  

No matter what name is eventually chosen there will always be someone who won’t like it. I am sure that when they named the John F. Kennedy Bridge there were probably many people that didn’t appreciate it. With  a couple of more years to make a decision on what we will call these bridges, I think we should take the time to at least get it right.

— Matthew Nash would love to hear your suggestions on names for the new bridges. You can contact him at dmatthewnash@gmail.com