With the closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge, many have suggested that the K & I Bridge be re-opened to pick up some of the slack left by the main bridge's closing. I am encouraged by correspondence and the resulting conversation with representatives of the Norfolk Southern Railroad, the owners of the K & I.
I have used that bridge often when it was open to the public. I have ridden across it often on a bicycle as well. The latter conveyance provides a particularly exhilarating sensation. Since the deck is made of steel grates one can see through, as one speeds up on a bike, the deck visually disappears, giving the sensation of flying above the river. I digress. The point is, I have a history of riding across that bridge both in cars, buses, and on bikes. And this history has caused me to miss an important point about the bridge's utility as a regular full-service bridge.
When the bridge was open to regular public use the train tracks approached and entered the bridge more or less as a continuation of Vincennes Street, so car traffic ran parallel with the train tracks. As I looked at the bridge yesterday, up close, it dawned on me that the west traffic lane of the bridge is not likely usable because it is now dissected by the railroad tracks. Both days I've gone to look at the bridge, it has had a train parked across that lane. The bridge might be used by the railroad as a kind of staging area where the trains are held until the tracks open up farther down the line. Even if the railroad would quit using the tracks for such a purpose, if indeed that is how they are used, the automobile approach to the west lane of the bridge would require extensive rebuilding and paving.
The paving is an investment I think should be made.We have seen with the closing of the Sherman Minton that the city and the region is negatively affected by disruptions to bridge traffic. It just makes sense to have a backup.
The most encouraging discussion with railroad officials relative to our current situation revolved around using the bridge for ambulances and medical personnel. Passage over the bridge would require meeting an on-site railroad worker who would open locked gates. This would address one of the most perilous eventualities of the current bridge closing. I am hopeful the Norfolk Southern will make its determination quickly on this matter.
The other encouraging thing to come out of the discussion is the apparent willingness to look at further use of the bridge after the current mess is sorted out. Many have longed to have the bridge open as a link between Louisville's River Walk and Southern Indiana's Greenway. I am more confident now that the small steps we make during the current situation can lead to wider use of the K & I in the future. Since the bridge is a private structure it will be up to City officials to work with Norfolk Southern personnel to work out a plan for pedestrian/bike use of the bridge, and also to put in place a permanent plan for emergency use even after the current problem with the Sherman Minton is solved.