Thursday, March 27, 2014

In the news, 3/27/14

If all goes well, I might be able to get down to Madison, Ind., the week of April 6. That's the newest target date for the big bridge slide.

This is from an e-mail I received the other evening from the Milton-Madison Bridge Project:

Preparation work continues for the slide of the Milton-Madison Bridge, which is tentatively scheduled to take place the week of April 6. Once the bridge has been moved onto its permanent piers, it will take approximately a week to complete inspections, road connections to the bridge and other work. As a result, the bridge will remain closed until mid-April.

Additional restraints are being installed and the sliding harnesses modified as part of the prep work. This additional work follows a four-step process:  The measures are designed off site, the designs are reviewed by the states, the materials are fabricated and/or delivered to the site, and finally, they are installed by bridge crews.

Each of the four steps has its own timeline, and one must be completed before the next. “We’re working diligently and carefully to move the bridge and get it reopened safely and in a timely manner,” said Kevin Hetrick, project manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).

Structural engineers will continue to monitor and inspect the bridge throughout the process to ensure it is safe through all phases of work. Meanwhile, Walsh Construction crews continue to work as they are able on other tasks that must be completed before the bridge reopens to traffic, such as installing the remaining concrete railings and deck for the Indiana and Kentucky approaches to the bridge.

Over the weekend, construction crews completed the job of jacking up the bridge and replacing a steel bearing that dislodged March 11.  The southeast corner of the bridge was raised nearly one foot in order to slide the bearing into place. The jacks were then removed, placing the bridge load back on its bearings.

On March 13, a 100-foot concrete approach bridge section was slid laterally into place over the Milton, Ky., riverbank. This was a precursor of the upcoming main truss slide because it involved the same equipment and process. Time-lapse video is available on the project website’s News Center page: click here to view time-lapse video.

The nearly half-mile steel truss will be slid laterally 55 feet onto refurbished permanent piers. While there have been reportedly more than 30 bridge slides in the U.S., the Milton-Madison Bridge will be the longest steel truss (2,428 feet) in North America to be slid laterally into place.

While U.S. 421 remains closed across the Ohio River between Madison, Ind., and Milton, Ky., detours will remain in effect. Signage is detouring traffic to the Markland Locks and Dam Bridge, connecting Kentucky Route 1039 and Indiana State Road 101, 26 miles upstream, or the I-65 Kennedy Bridge in Louisville, 46 miles downstream.

A ferry has been providing transportation across the river for emergency vehicles, such as an ambulance. Residents are asked to keep Ferry Street and the boat ramps clear on both sides of the river.

As updates become available, they will be posted on the project’s website,, and via Twitter at Regular updates will also be provided to local news media.

The Milton-Madison Bridge Project is a joint effort between the Indiana Department of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The new steel truss bridge is 2,428 feet long and 40 feet wide with two 12-foot lanes and eight-foot shoulders – twice as wide as the old bridge.


This one if about three weeks old. Sorry for the lateness, but it's still good. The hydroelectric plant at the Meldahl Locks and Dam is on schedule to go into service in about 12 months.


And then there's this report of a towboat grounding in the Ohio River on Wednesday at about Mile 65. Here's a photo.


Normally, we fret here over invasive species from elsewhere that are causing problems in the Ohio River system. In North Carolina, wildlife officials are dealing with the spread of the rusty craysfish, a species of crawdad (which is what we call them where I come from) from the Ohio River watershed.

Bad-off towns

So yesterday evening I was looking at the Huntington WV paper and the story it had on how the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index had ranked Huntington WV at the bottom of national rankings of residents' well-being, followed closely by Charleston WV. I was looking at the chart of the worst-off metro areas, and I noticed these places were in the bottom ten:

Huntington-Ashland WV-KY-OH
Charleston WV
Spartanburg SC
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton NC
Evansville IN

Huntington and Evansville are along the Ohio River, and Charleston sits along one of the Ohio's largest tributaries.

But what do Spartanburg and Hickory have to do with anything? I was in both of them 21 years ago. In response a glass bottle factory in Huntington shutting down the year before, the editor of the newspaper sent several reporters to some of the areas that were getting new manufacturing jobs at the time we were losing them. I went to the two cities mentioned above. Spartanburg had landed a BMW factory, and Hickory was in the middle of the then-prosperous furniture belt. The folks in Hickory had also lured away a manufacturing plant from Huntington. As I interviewed the economic development director of Hickory, he said something that stuck with me. He said don't think your legislature makes the rules when it comes to economic development. The legislature makes the laws you live by, but the competition makes the rules you play under.

Anyway, I guess the main point of this is that if I show up in your town with a reporter's notebook in my hand, you must be in pretty bad shape.

Now isn't that something to be known by?

P.S. When an editor gets an idea in his head, it's not easy dislodging it. I told the editor that we didn't really lose those jobs. They had moved 30 miles up the road. At Apple Grove WV is a plastics plant now owned by M&G Polymers. It makes plastic pellets that are used in forming food and beverage containers. Those are the same items formerly made of glass and formerly made in Huntington.

I, of course, knew nothing, and my observation got in the way of the point the editor was trying to make, so I was ignored.

It wasn't the last time.

1977: Jay Rockefeller walks the Silver Memorial Bridge

Jay Rockefeller is finishing up his 30th and final year as a U.S. senator representing the Great State of West Virginia, as it's known here. Before he went to Washington for good, Jay was governor of the Great State of West Virginia for eight years.

I have interviewed and chatted with Jay many times over the years. The first time I met him was in October 1977 when he visited the Silver Memorial Bridge at Henderson following three or four months of repairs that forced the bridge's closing. The bridge was built in 1968 and 1969, and it used the T1 steel that is susceptible to butt weld cracks (Put those words in the wrong order, and you wince in pain). So less than a decade after the bridge opened to traffic, it had to be closed for repairs to those welds.

The afternoon before the bridge re-opened, Rockefeller and some officials flew to the scene by helicopter for a walking tour of the bridge. I was there to cover it.

Here is Rockefeller (the tall guy with the glasses) walking from the West Virginia side toward the Ohio side. The shorter fellow with the mustache was, I believe, state highway commission commissioner Charlie Miller. In the background you can see the old Shadle Bridge over the Kanawha River. That bridge was replaced and demolished about twenty years after this picture was taken.

Here Rockefeller and others are looking up at one of the areas where repairs were made.

And here was about the point where we turned back around. As he neared this end of the bridge, Rockefeller said something like, "So much for Ohio," turned and walked back toward West Virginia.

As his helicopter lifted off for his trip back to Charleston, it threw a mild panic into a herd of cattle grazing nearby.