A bridge from here to Louisville?
As the crow flies, Mike Linnig’s is just a glide over the Ohio River from the intersection of state roads 111 and 211. As the car drives, the seafood restaurant is nearly 30 miles and a long hour’s commute away.
The wide gap between the crow and the car is symptomatic of Louisville’s lack of a complete interstate loop which would join western Jefferson County, Ky., with its Hoosier neighbors.
The 1997 Ohio River Major Investment Study resulted in the quick dismissal of a hypothetical western corridor bridge connecting Jefferson County with Harrison County after projecting the bridge would be used by only 4,000 vehicles per day.
In contrast, the study estimated two other potential bridge sites at 63,000 to 65,000 and 37,000 vehicles per day.
On Feb. 17 the Louisville Metro Council Transportation and Public Works Committee began revisiting the prospect of a bridge connecting the Gene Snyder Freeway with Harrison County and, possibly, Interstate 265.
After hearing the 4,000 figure, Councilman Robin Engle said the number was ‘severely underestimated.’
‘I’m not advocating we build a bridge just for the people at Caesars,’ Engle said, but, he added, the gaming complex alone may account for more traffic than the study had projected.
Caesars Indiana’s Bridgeport complex opened in November 1998, after the study was completed, and its Glory of Rome riverboat draws about 250,000 individuals each month.
Assuming two occupants per car, Caesars does draw about 4,000 vehicles daily. However, it’s impossible to tell how many of those would benefit from a western corridor bridge.
Councilman Doug Hawkins introduced the proposal to the transportation and public works committee. He said the bridge would provide a boost to the economy on the Kentucky side and had strong support from his constituents.
The only way the bridge would be built, he said, is through a toll program.
Jim Adkins, director of public works for Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, showed a map depicting a path of least resistance for a bridge from the Gene Snyder Freeway.
‘There is no doubt it would be good for the community,’ Adkins said, pointing out that much of the land that would be affected in Jefferson County is government-owned.
Some of the land is being used for flood control and some contains historic homes on large farms.
On the Indiana side, the map shows the bridge crossing about 15 miles south of Interstate 64. That would place it near the intersection of state roads 211 and 111.
The metro council plans to have more fact-finding hearings on the issue before taking action.
Harrison County Commissioner Jim Heitkemper attended the hearing but did not speak.
‘We are listening, not pushing,’ Heitkemper said.
‘We’ve got two good projects with (the Indiana Dept. of Transportation) in the pipeline, and we’re not jeopardizing those,’ he said, referring to possible interchange projects on Interstate 64 at Lanesville and west of Corydon.
‘(The bridge) is a very viable concept. It is something that could be done, and I will probably see it done in my lifetime. We’ve got to make sure we do it right,’ Heitkemper said.
Several Harrison County officials spoke with Hawkins after the meeting. Heitkemper, commenting on Hawkins, said ‘He seems to be a sensible kind of guy who tries to get things done, and he seems to have the support of his constituents, too.’