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March 19, 2013

Big Four ramp opening bumped back

August completion date now expected for Jeffersonville’s ramp to bridge

JEFFERSONVILLE — Indiana’s ramp to the Big Four pedestrian and bicycle bridge will not be open until at least late August.

Another delay in the completion of the plan to convert the former railroad bridge into a pedestrian path that will connect Jeffersonville to Louisville’s Waterfront Park caused some grumbling when it was announced at the Jeffersonville City Council meeting Monday night.

Thousands of people have already trekked up the Louisville ramp and across the 2,500-foot-long, 57-foot-high bridge deck to check out the views and exercise. Until at least late August, they will have to be content stopping at the Indiana shoreline.

Louisville has already completed its portion of the bridge, which has been open to the public since February. Indiana had expected that its ramp would be open by April, but the completion date was pushed back to June. It was recently delayed again.

According to Greg Prince, media relations director for the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Seymour district, the big issue that caused the delay is a lighting change by Jeffersonville..

During the public hearing portions of the project, the lighting on the bridge was discussed, and along with input from the Rose Hill Neighborhood Association, it was agreed that Jeffersonville’s lights would not match those on the ramp in Louisville.

Louisville’s lighting system includes post lights that change color. It was determined that the lighting system would not be conducive to a residential area, as Louisville’s ramp is located in an 85-acre park, and Jeffersonville’s will be landing in an historic neighborhood.

Indiana’s ramp is set to land at Market and Pearl streets, where a park — much smaller than Louisville’s Waterfront Park — is being planned around the ramp’s landing. Big Four Station is set to be a two-block park that will welcome visitors crossing the Ohio River on the refurbished railroad span.

As a result, the post lights were changed to handrail lighting, which has led to more work — and time.

“We had to redesign all of the electrical and lighting package, including the railing itself to accommodate the conduit for the lighted handrail,” said City Engineer Andy Crouch in an email.

He added that other items that have pushed the project back included a delay in moving an historic home on Walnut Street that needed to be removed prior to Gohmann Asphalt — the contractor for the project — starting construction. Also, once steel box girders were set in place last fall, the contractor noticed that they were not performing as expected.  

“We’ve been assured that the issues do not affect the safety or longevity of the structure, and we’ve made some construction modifications in order to account for the issues,” Crouch said.

The contractors completion date is set for Aug. 31.

Prince added that the lighting and electrical contract is scheduled for a May letting, the bridge deck concrete pours and curb work will also be finished in May and the handrail sections are scheduled to arrive in July.  

Crouch added that despite the contractors timeline, “we are not sure at this point when [the lighting] contractor will be able to get started, due to Gohmann, the current contractor, not being completed.”

He added there are stipulations in the contract with Gohmann that would penalize them for any delays caused by the company, but at this point he said he did not believe that any delays can be attributed to the contractor.

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Judy Lunsford works on a lesson plan for her students with fellow teachers, Ellen Rothstein and Adam Stephens, in her classroom at Northaven Elementary in Jeffersonville Wednesday afternoon. Lunsford, a new addition to Northaven, will be teaching second grade.

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