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Case Study - Kentucky and Indiana

Heritage Tourism and Economic Support is the Focus of Mitigation for Effects of the Milton-Madison Bridge Project on Historic Districts

Description of the Project:

This photo is from the Jefferson County Historical Society showing construction of the Milton-Madison Bridge in 1928. The bridge opened to traffic in 1929.In 2009, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in cooperation with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), initiated Section 106 consultation for the US421 Bridge Project over the Ohio River between Milton Kentucky and Madison Indiana. A wide range of alternatives for repair or replacement of the Milton-Madison Bridge was initially considered in environmental review (which began in1995). In 2009, however, KYTC and INDOT set out to fast-track the environmental review process in the hopes of receiving a TIGER grant from the US Department of Transportation, a competitive program created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). To qualify for funding, the project would need to be completed by 2012. Consultation, therefore, focused on the preferred alternative of placing a new steel truss superstructure on the existing piers at the bridge's current location. This was a controversial decision to local residents wanting to see interstate truck traffic diverted away from the downtown Madison Historic District and National Historic Landmark.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) participated in consultation to develop a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the project because of the controversy and the effects of the proposed project on a National Historic Landmark. The MOA was executed in February 2010, shortly before $20 million in TIGER funds were awarded. The contractor selected for the project surprised FHWA and KYTC with an offer that was $30 million below FHWA's estimated cost.  Furthermore the winning firm committed to build the bridge in an innovative way so that the crossing will be closed for only 10 days, rather than the anticipated 365 days. A lengthy closure of the crossing was of considerable concern to historic districts on both sides of the Ohio River, which depend on customer access from both Indiana and Kentucky.

Affected Historic Properties

The existing steel truss Milton-Madison Bridge was built in 1929 and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge underwent a significant rehabilitation effort in the late 1990s, but was built for the smaller vehicles of the era and is too narrow for today's traffic. Structural deterioration at present is substantial, and truck traffic is currently prohibited.

Photo of the Milton-Madison Bridge in 2010 (courtesy of WilberSmith Consultants)The undertaking will also result in effects to the communities of Madison and Milton, which include the Madison National Historic Landmark (NHL) District, Madison National Register Historic District, Milton Third Street Historic District and Hunter’s Bottom National Register Historic District. Madison is one of the largest NHL Districts in the United States; including domestic, commercial, public, religious, and industrial buildings and a remarkably intact 19th century infrastructure. It includes over 1600 historic buildings constructed from about 1817 to 1939. The effects to the four historic districts are primarily indirect: resulting from the closure of the river crossing. The potential loss of business caused by decreased access was a major factor in negotiation of the original MOA for the project.

Archaeological investigations have identified one archaeological site on the Kentucky side of the project area. The MOA requires additional investigations to determine if this site is eligible for the National Register and additional excavations if the site is determined to be historically significant.

Analysis of Consultation and Agreement

Throughout the planning for this project, the location of the crossing has been controversial and the resolution of adverse effects was especially challenging due to the large number and range of interests held by participants in Section 106 consultation. Concerns included the negative economic impact that the temporary closure of the bridge during construction would have on businesses in the National Register districts on both sides of the river. Many consulting parties preferred a new bridge be constructed in a new location, more distant from the historic districts; however, given the size of the Madison Historic District and National Historic Landmark, FHWA determined that complete avoidance of impacts to historic Madison is not possible.

In addition to FHWA, KYTC, INDOT, the Kentucky and Indiana State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), and the ACHP, 26 individuals and organizations were identified as consulting parties. Among these parties were the Jefferson County Historical Society, National Park Service, Peoria Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, Madison Main Street Program, Madison Historic District Board of Review, Cornerstone Society, Inc, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians; National Trust for Historic Preservation; Miami Tribe of Oklahoma; Madison Bicentennial Committee; and the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Since a major concern of consulting parties, in negotiating the original MOA, centered on the potential loss of business in the commercial portions of the historic districts, the agreed upon mitigation measures focused largely on helping ensure that the historic commercial district remains economically viable and that construction impacts on historic buildings are minimized. The MOA, executed in February 2010, required FHWA, the KYTC, and INDOT to:

  • Use innovative construction techniques to minimize the closure of the US421 Bridge and reduce disruption to businesses and residents in the historic district;
  • Provide a free ferry service for the duration of the bridge closure;
  • Provide funding up to $205,000 for a heritage tourism and promotional marking effort for Madison;
  • Provide funding up to $40,000 for tourism and promotional marketing assistance for Milton;
  • Provide funding up to $40,000 annually to the City of Madison to hire a Historic Preservation Officer for two years beginning on January 1, 2011;
  • For a period of two years, reimburse the Madison Main Street Program up to $40,000 per year for activities associated with grants and other assistance to businesses in the four historic districts;
  • Use a process parallel to that of Section 106 consultation should any future improvements to the approaches of the new bridge be proposed for construction without Federal assistance or approval;
  • Complete HAER documentation on the existing Milton-Madison Bridge, and pay for conservation of the original 35mm nitrate film and the creation of a high quality master negative film of the ceremony celebrating the opening of the bridge in 1929;
  • Re-examine the period of significance for the Madison National Register District and extend it to coincide with that of the Madison National Historic Landmark District;
  • Study the possibility of expansion of the boundaries of the Third Street Historic District;
  • Monitor certain historic structures for construction vibration damage and ensure that construction activities follow local noise regulations policies and guidance to minimize adverse noise effects; 
  • Ensure that traffic, parking, and the boat launch for the ferry service are managed in a manner sensitive to the historic districts;
  • Complete archaeological investigations at site 15Tm112 in consultation with SHPO, and Indian tribes, and
  • Continue public involvement during the construction of the new bridge.

When FHWA and KYTC determined that the bridge could be replaced without requiring a lengthy closure, they re-initiated consultation with the Indiana and Kentucky SHPOs, the ACHP and the other consulting parties, proposing to amend the MOA to eliminate the ferry service as a stipulation and consider other possible revisions to the agreed upon mitigation. The prospect that the crossing would be open during construction, except for 10 days, was welcome news to the Section 106 consulting parties. Parties agreed with FHWA's proposal to remove free ferry service from the MOA, as it is no longer needed. Parties were; however, concerned that FHWA would seek to eliminate other mitigation measures contained in the original agreement intended to support heritage tourism and economic viability of the commercial districts. However, FHWA and the DOTs agreed to retain all stipulations, removing only the ferry service and re-evaluation of the Madison National Register district boundary. The resulting amended MOA was redrafted to fully replace the original MOA. View a copy of the MOA here.

Why this is a good agreement

The original, and subsequently amended, MOA is an excellent example of creative mitigation focused on preservation of an important National Historic Landmark District and other historic districts that depend on access for commerce and heritage tourism. The historic 1929 steel truss bridge between Milton and Madison is deteriorated and obsolete, its 20-foot wide deck unable to handle today's traffic. After consulting the local residents and the broader historic preservation community, FHWA agreed to replace the existing bridge with a similar, but wider, steel truss bridge. The MOA does not include all of the mitigation measures recommended by the consulting parties, and certain parties remain opposed to construction of the new bridge at the existing location; preferring to direct truck traffic away from downtown Madison. Nevertheless, FHWA, INDOT and KYTC consulted with all affected parties, used an open, collaborative approach to resolving adverse effects, and provided the communities of Madison and Milton with a variety of mitigation measures to lessen the impact of the project on historic properties, including financial assistance to promote preservation and heritage tourism.  

In an unexpected turn of events, Walsh Construction Company of Indiana proposed an innovative approach; to build the new superstructure on a site near the existing bridge, then position it near temporary piers next to the existing bridge so that it can be lifted into place on the existing bridge piers over a period of 10 days. The selection of Walsh for the design-build project, using construction techniques that will minimize the disruption of business to the towns of Milton and Madison, will also reduce the cost of construction to $103 million. In the amended MOA, executed on December 23, 2010, the parties agreed to eliminate the free ferry crossing, but retain most other mitigation measures that were previously agreed upon. The project is an excellent example of fast-tracked consultation on an ARRA project in which consulting parties had a meaningful role in consultation to resolve the adverse effects to historic properties. The innovative construction technique to be used by Walsh and the creative mitigation package contained in the amended MOA both contribute to the successful outcome of this project. 

View a copy of the MOA here.

For more information please contact Carol Legard, FHWA Liaison, at

Updated April 28, 2011

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