The Indiana side of the Big Four Bridge will not be open in time for Kentucky Derby weekend.
Jeffersonville city officials had hoped the pedestrian walking and cycling bridge would be opened on April 30, but a recent decision from the Indiana Department of Transportation delayed those plans, much to the dismay of residents and business owners.
The state says more time is needed to install lighted safety rails, some of which are still being manufactured in Wisconsin.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore met with INDOT officials this week in hopes of getting the ramp opened sooner. He said he is disappointed by the repeated delays.
“Here we are again with the state saying maybe sometime in June, obviously I don’t put much weight on deadlines INDOT has put out. So, we’re back to waiting for the state to say we can open that bridge,” Moore said.
Jeffersonville officials wanted to install temporary lights, but the state did not approve of those plans, citing liability issues.
Nearly 1,200 linear feet of lighted safety railing has already been installed by Hummel Electric, but there is still a “sizable gap” along a curved section of a ramp that needs to be completed, according to a statement released by INDOT.
To see some photos of the work, click here.
Moore said plans had been made to purchase nearly $20,000 worth of temporary lights and the proposal to install those lights, which would have enabled the bridge to open for the Kentucky Derby weekend, had been approved by INDOT. The state agency eventually stepped back from the plan.
As reported by the News and Tribune, Jeffersonville city attorney, Les Merkley, said officials in Jeffersonville “did what INDOT told us to do” in order to get the bridge operational by April 30.
“And then next thing we know, we get a press release from INDOT stating, ‘We’re in control, get out of the way, we’re going to keep it closed,’” he said in the article.
Moore said the press release to announce the bridge will remain closed came as a surprise to him, to business owners and to residents.
“We wanted to have it open prior to Derby,” he said. “It’s a lot of disappointment, a lot of frustration. It has not been easy dealing with INDOT.”
Will Wingfield, a spokesman for INDOT, said the state agency is working with Jeffersonville officials to expedite the process.
“We have an agreement, a contract with the city of Jeffersonville and we are working to complete that as quickly as possible,” Wingfield said.
Moore said he believes the delay stems, in part, from the plans to shut down the Clark Memorial Bridge for construction in the coming weeks.
When the Clark Memorial Bridge shuts down, pedestrian access must be maintained in some fashion for residents that walk or cycle across the Ohio River. Moore said since construction is behind schedule on the Clark Memorial, that gives reason for INDOT officials to not rush the opening of the Big Four Bridge.
“I think it is all kind of dictated by the work that is going to be done on the Second Street bridge,” he said.
Despite a constant stream of delays, Moore said he has yet to meet a person that isn’t excited about the bridge’s opening—regardless of when it actually happens.
“Everybody wants it open,” he said. “It can’t get here quick enough.”