About those troubled bridges over our waters

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Whod'a thought Shelby and Jefferson would share bridge problems?

By Steve Doyle

You may recall a few weeks ago when I hand-wringingly admitted a periodic paranoia about bridges, especially those that are high and narrow or creakily cross creeks.

So you may understand that I see terrible irony – and not simply coincidence, language fans – in the fact that we now face two similar and simultaneous problems with bridges.

There is, of course, the historic and embraceable (work with me) Who Da Thot It Bridge here in Shelbyville and now the Sherman Minton Bridge just up I-64 at the Ohio River.

Cars can’t drive on either of them right now, and officials are trying to figure out what to do with cracks and foundational support issues they have found. Either of them could fall down at a given moment.

And that feels even goose-pimplier than the creepy issues that always have bothered me.

In Louisville, we have a new scripted series: “Nightmare in Indiana” (is that redundant?).

If you have to travel routinely between that state and ours, you no doubt will be locked in the jaws of grid.

The repulsive reports have it at maybe 90 minutes to traverse around to and down the 4-lane Kennedy Bridge on I-65 that now includes all the vehicles who used to use the 8-lane Sherman Minton.

Josh Cook, our esteemed sports writer, commutes from Exit 0 on I-65 in Indiana, and even he says he has felt the pain.

Now, we haven’t heard similar reports of backups along 7th Street or at the light at Boone’s Station as residents along Eminence Pike north of Shelbyville find alternate routes to downtown, though we bet there have been some folks (OK, 2) inconvenienced by not having that old direct route.

But here’s where the irony comes in: It wasn’t so many years ago, that one of those bridges handled the big load, and the other wasn’t even an artist’s conception.

In the 1800s, when Who Da Thot It was built, it was thethoroughfare into Shelbyville from the north. We imagine Squire Boone had envisioned it as a nice way to get his wagons across the creek and up the hill, but instead his family and friends had to take the back roads west, and look where that got them.

And, if you can believe it, there used to be only two routes over the Ohio River in Louisville – unless you had access to a boat or kept up with Mark Spitz or Johnny Weissmuller (two options for different eras) --  and those were the 2nd Street /Clark Memorial Bridge and the K&I Bridge, which also allowed for a lane of auto traffic alongside railroad tracks.

Like WDTI, both of them have history, too. The Clark Memorial is where Muhammad Ali allegedly flung his Olympic medals into the water as a personal protest against racism, and it’s where Bill Murray left his cab during an early scene from Stripes.

The K&I was opened in 1886 and included two “wagon ways.” Maybe knowing that was coming was why Squire ended up in Corydon, Ind.

One thing for sure is that bridge seemed old and rusty 50 years ago and was not the rote route for a boy who had heebie-jeebies.

Then along came the interstate highway project, which first got the Kennedy Bridge up and running, and we started to hear reports of a new, incredibly frightening-sounding span being constructed downriver: a double-decker.

Imagine, if you will, a chicken child fearing that cars riding on the top deck would be  careening along next to a little rail that would protect them from the dirty-water abyss. I conjured images to those awful double-decker Ferris Wheels that I avoided at all costs.

The really odd thing is that I can recall driving on the Sherman Minton, or the “double-decker,” just once when I was young. That was probably because there was nothing in that part of Indiana that interested me.

I can report that a few times as an adult I’ve traveled between Louisville and St. Louis, and the bridge seemed fairly tame, given its wide expanse.

I don’t know how these melodramas are going to end – if Alfred Hitchcock takes over the script, we may have a remake of Burt Lancaster’s The Swimmer – but it may be time to take a poll:

All those for building that I-265 bridge from the Gene Snyder Freeway north, honk your horns.

All those for keeping the Who Da Thot It Bridge open for vehicles, say aye.

I’m betting the honkers have it.


Steve Doyle’s columns can be found at www.SentinelNews.com/columns.