Madison Bridge Replacement

The Environmental Assessment (EA) and Preliminary Design study is underway for the replacement of the U.S. Highway 421 Bridge on the Ohio River between Madison, Indiana and Milton, Kentucky. The study includes the preliminary engineering, EA, and public involvement that will result in a preferred alignment, grade and roadway geometrics, and a conceptual bridge type. Because the state of Kentucky owns the bridge, the Kentucky Division of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will take the lead on the project. Wilbur Smith and Associates have been awarded the contract to complete the study within the next three years.

An EA is a study of the land surrounding the proposed site of construction to determine any unique environmental attributes, considering everything from endangered species to existing hazardous waste to historical significance. The finding of the EA determines whether an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required. An EIS is a document that must be filed when the federal government takes a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, which in this case includes the historic integrity of the Madison Historic District National Historic Landmark. If the EA indicates that no significant impact is likely, then the agency can release a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and carry on with the proposed action. Otherwise, the agency must conduct a full-scale EIS.
Bridge going over a river.
Milton-Madison Bridge, U.S. Highway 421, Ohio River.

Photo courtesy of John Stacier, HMI, Inc.

Designated an NHL on March 20, 2006, the Madison Historic District’s integrity may be compromised by the location of the Milton—Madison Bridge replacement. The approaches to the new bridge and the ramp leading to and from the bridge will consume a great deal of land. If the bridge is located to enter into the historic district, there will be a loss of historic structures. The current Milton-Madison Bridge is not located within the NHL.
Initially constructed in 1928/29, the cantilevered through truss bridge is one of the oldest remaining bridges over the Ohio River. Along with the age and condition of the bridge, increased traffic necessitates the replacement of the bridge. The current two-lane bridge will be replaced with a structure that will accommodate four-to six lanes.

Because the bridge connects the states of Kentucky and Indiana, the list of interested parties is lengthy and involves the FHWA Kentucky and Indiana Divisions; the Kentucky Cabinet of Transportation, the Indiana Department of Transportation; the communities of Madison, Indiana, and Milton, Kentucky; the Boards of Trimble County, Kentucky and Jefferson County, Indiana; and the State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPO) of Kentucky and Indiana. Indiana is located in the Midwest Region of the National Park Service; and Kentucky is located in the Southeast Region of the National Park Service. Numerous other historical agencies and organizations in the State of Indiana have expressed their interest and concern for the preservation of the integrity of the Madison Historic District NHL.

The National Park Service sent a letter to the FHWA Kentucky Division noting its concern that the location of the proposed bridge may create an adverse impact on the nationally significant resources within the Madison Historic District.
Originally published in "Exceptional Places" Vol. 3, 2008, a newsletter of the Division of Cultural Resources, Midwest Region. Written by Michele Curran.