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Officials Seek To Protect Falcons During Bridge Demolition

The 10-year nesting site will remain undisturbed during construction, officials say.

The old Milton-Madison bridge connecting Indiana and Kentucky is scheduled to come down Thursday.

Photo: cindy47452 (Flickr)

The old Milton-Madison bridge connecting Indiana and Kentucky is scheduled to come down Thursday.

Update 1 p.m.:

Demolition of the first section of the old Milton-Madison Bridge has been rescheduled for next week due to predicted high water levels and a swift current in the Ohio River.

Weather-permitting, the first blast is now scheduled for Monday, July 22 at 9 a.m.

Original Post:

Wildlife officials say they are taking precautions to protect peregrine falcons in preparation for Thursday’s demolition of the Milton-Madison Bridge.

A pair of peregrine falcons, a species that is on the Indiana list of endangered species, has used the bridge’s piers as a nesting site for the past ten years. When construction on the new bridge began in 2011, Indiana and Kentucky state wildlife biologists relocated the falcon’s nest closer to the Indiana shore.

Construction crews plan to demolish a portion of the old US 421 Milton-Madison Bridge using a series of small explosive blasts.

Kate Heyden, an avian biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, said the birds and their young are able to get to safety.

“As they’re taking [the bridge] apart in pieces, we’re really not too worried about the birds because they should be able to fly away as disturbances happen,” Heyden said.

And she says the birds may not be near the bridge because they typically nest at the site between February and June.

INDOT Spokesman Will Wingfield said the pier that houses the nesting box will have reinforcement steel inserted and a “concrete jacket” around the exterior.

“We’ve been able to manage this in a way that we’ve limited the impacts on the peregrine falcon nest,” Wingfield said. “Thus far they’ve continued to be a productive nesting pair, so we expect that to continue after the bridge construction is completed.”

The new Milton-Madison Bridge between Indiana and Kentucky is scheduled to close at 9:00 a.m. Thursday, July 18. A blast to bring down a 700-foot-long span of the old bridge, located 15 feet downstream, is expected to occur shortly thereafter.

The new bridge is expected to reopen to traffic at or before 11:00 a.m.

How the Demolition Will Occur

Traffic switched on June 3 to a new bridge, which currently sits on temporary piers 15 feet downstream from its predecessor. This new structure will ultimately be slid into place on top of the old piers, which are being reinforced.

The new bridge is 40-feet wide – twice as wide as the old bridge. A sidewalk is also planned for the new span, but it is not expected to open until this fall.

The section scheduled for demolition sits over the main navigational channel of the Ohio River, which is also scheduled to close at 9:00 a.m. The river will remain closed to barge traffic for 24 hours, to allow removal of the old span from the water.

Subcontractor Advanced Explosives Demolition, Inc. will detonate small explosive charges placed at critical locations on the bridge in intervals to control the direction of fall. Wingfield explained this construction technique will help keep the bridge open to traffic, rather than succumb to the yearlong closure that planners had originally anticipated.

“The demolition itself is being done in a way to minimize the impact on both vehicular and river traffic,” Wingfield said. “There will be a lot of work taking place over a 24-hour period, but for traffic just generally flowing on the bridge itself, really no more than a few hours.”

Thursday’s blast will be the first of four to bring down the 2,427-foot-long steel structure. The remaining blasts will occur, causing other morning interruptions to traffic, over the next few weeks.

The final disruption will be a weeklong closure, likely in September, when construction crews slide the new bridge into place.

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