Officials eye May opening for delayed Indiana pedestrian bridge

(WISH Photo, file)
(WISH Photo, file)

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A long-delayed pedestrian and bicycling bridge that will link southern Indiana with Kentucky could open in May if handrails and lights are installed in time, according to local officials.

Jeffersonville city engineer Andy Crouch told the News and Tribune  that the city is waiting for the rails to be made and delivered. That process should take up to eight weeks, and installation could take another three weeks.

If the timetable holds, the opening would come more than a year after the Louisville side opened. More than 500,000 pedestrians and 75,000 cyclists have accessed the span since February 2013.

David Karem, president of Louisville Waterfront Park, said the traffic is “far, far exceeding anything we could have hoped for.”

The delays on the Indiana side stem from a variety of issues, including a design flaw in steel box girders supporting the concrete deck of the ramp. It also took longer than expected to install guardrails that line the sides of the ramp.

Jeffersonville, Mayor Mike Moore said he would have liked to have the span open last summer but isn’t dwelling on the delay. Instead, he’s looking ahead to the business the open span will bring to restaurants at the foot of the bridge.

“What’s done is done, and Jeffersonville is a few months away from having just an explosion of new dollars and new people coming into our city, and I couldn’t be more excited about it,” he said.

Crouch said the focus now is on getting the handrails made and installed. The rails must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act because federal funding is paying for 80 percent of the Indiana cost.

“The handrailing has to be very precise in terms of its specifications,” said Will Wingfield, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation. “They couldn’t really be designed until the railings were installed and the precise sizes were known.”

The city also had to ensure that lights installed in the rails would not shine into homes in the city’s historic district.

Matthew McMahan, owner of Big Four Burgers and Beer on Spring Street, said he’s a big fan of the bridge and looks forward to seeing how foot traffic affects business.

“I can’t even imagine how much it’s going to impact whenever that side opens,” he said. “We’re definitely banking on getting that crowd, but it hasn’t been detrimental that it hasn’t been open.”

Crouch said an official opening date will be decided a week or two in advance.

Karem said the bridge is “really handsome.”

“It’s reminiscent to me of a Gothic cathedral,” he said. “I think people marvel at it.”

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