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May 19, 2014

Mayor: Big Four could open this week in Jeffersonville

Moore speculates long-awaited pedestrian bridge could welcome visitors Tuesday

JEFFERSONVILLE — Handrail lighting is installed on the Jeffersonville ramp to the Big Four Bridge and the only thing standing between it opening is a letter from the state to the city.

The Indiana Department of Transportation and city performed walk-through inspections Monday with contractor Hummel Electric of Evansville and all punch-list items have now been addressed, according to an INDOT news release.

Jeffersonville hopes to receive a letter in the next few days letting the city know the bridge and its ramp has been turned over to the city and it is free to open the former railroad bridge to pedestrian and bike traffic. The Louisville ramp and the bride’s deck has been open for more than a year.

“As soon as we get that letter, we’ll notify [Louisville officials],” said Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore. “They told us they’ll need about four hours to get the fence down [on the bridge deck at the top of the Indiana ramp] and then we can open the bridge.”

Opening of the bridge has been delayed for nearly a year after design flaws were found in the ramp’s support steel and also a change was made to the lighting on the Jeffersonville ramp. Handrail lighting was chosen in consultation with the Old Jeffersonville Historic District to meet federal historic preservation requirements.

“[Lighting for] the Indiana ramp and stair tower to the Big Four Bridge were completed today — not partially, but fully — and at the lowest possible cost to Jeffersonville taxpayers,” said INDOT chief of staff Troy Woodruff in the release. “The bike and pedestrian facility is a great attraction for tourism, recreation and transportation in Southern Indiana.”

Lights along the ramp have been turned on the past few nights.

The $8.5 million ramp and stair tower were funded up to 80 percent with Federal Highway Administration funds. The city of Jeffersonville designed the project and is paying at least 20 percent in a federal match.

The city owns and maintains the approach upon completion, and is responsible for coordinating the opening of the ramp with the Waterfront Development Corp. in Louisville.

Although Moore said he would like to plan out an official ribbon-cutting event a week in advance, he doesn’t want to stall the opening any longer, and said he hoped the city would receive the letter allowing the city to open the bridge Tuesday.

“I think the contractor deserves a pat on the back because he’s been sort of caught in the middle [of Jeffersonville and INDOT],” Moore said.

The city has seen an increase in business activity downtown as the ramp’s opening neared. Red Yeti Brewing Co. opened Monday on Spring Street and Olive Leaf Bistro is set to open soon on Riverside Drive. Pearl Street Treats is already open at the foot of the ramp, and owner Lynn Rhodea said in a previous article she’s ready to welcome walkers and bikers to Jeffersonville.

“We’d like to be ambassadors for our area,” Rhodea said. “We want to be the first welcoming warm faces [when people cross the bridge into Indiana] and forge relationships between the two areas and show them that we want to be friends.”

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Aikas Speed, 12, Charlestown, takes a photo of a bloody handprint on the countertop while Detective Donnie Bowyer watches over during a mock crime scene investigation at the Charlestown Public Library Wednesday.

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