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Less than two months after the stock market crash triggered the Great Depression, the people of Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind., came together to celebrate the grand opening of a new toll bridge connecting their small Ohio River towns. Bundled up against the freezing temperatures, the community celebrated in grand style with a colorful parade and dedication ceremony on December 20, 1929.
The concept of a bridge had started years before as a dream by city leaders. With the advent of the automobile, they knew the time had passed for the long-used ferry service which was too slow and small for the Model A Fords waiting to cross.
By 1928 their efforts paid off when the J.G. White Engineering Corporation, through the National Toll Bridge Company, agreed to build the bridge as a private enterprise. Drivers paid a 45 cent toll for the privilege of driving across the $1 million bridge; pedestrians paid five cents. Twenty years to the day of the dedication, the toll was lifted from the bridge.
Eight decades and millions of vehicle crossings later, the bridge is deteriorating despite multiple rehabilitations. Its 20-foot-wide road deck is obsolete and too narrow to handle modern traffic. In August 2008, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) launched the Milton-Madison Bridge Project in an effort to replace the bridge.
Ironically, efforts to replace a bridge born of the Great Depression gained sudden momentum as a result of the Great Recession of 2009. With new federal stimulus funding available for infrastructure projects, INDOT and KYTC aggressively pursued and obtained a $20 million grant toward the estimated $131 million cost of replacing the bridge.