October 5, 2011

Inbox — Oct. 5, 2011

Letters to the Editor

Model Bridge
Former Humana CEO David Jones recently stepped forward to offer a plan for remedying the failure of the Sherman Minton Bridge. Included with the plan is his generous incentive of a personal $10 million loan to initiate immediate action to proceed with the long-discussed and delayed eastern bridge. In an accompanying letter to the editor of The Courier-Journal, Jones quoted Winston Churchill: “Sometimes it’s not enough to do one’s best. Sometimes one must do what is required.”

Jones’ plan does indeed address the “now.”

But what about the future? It is at this point that my hopes diverge from the conclusion of Jones’ plan for immediate action to resolve the catastrophe. I believe Jones’ plan exists in the previous century of our auto transportation system’s birth. While it addresses the immediate problem, it offers no practical solution that recognizes the well-documented specter of either running out of the fossil fuel upon which our present system depends exclusively, or the fact that we are irretrievably damaging our ecology, economy and ultimately our existence in our continued pursuit and use of oil. Catastrophic failures usually bring opportunities for success — if imaginative leadership can envision the “opportunity” past the “catastrophe.”

If I’ve learned anything from the last 30 or more years of community struggle over whether and where to build more bridges for the inevitable onrush of more autos, it’s that the delay has made the decision moot as to investing in further oil-auto-based infrastructure. Despite the massive short-term individual sacrifices in changing our long-comfortable habits that will be called for, an investment in all options of public transit is “what is required.” We are suddenly if catastrophically positioned to become a model for the nation by making a choice that seizes the moment in choosing a sustainable path for our community in accommodating both interstate commerce and intra-community transit.
John Beckman, Clifton

Share the Tracks
I am writing because I respect and understand Gov. Mitch Daniels’ decision and the need to shut down the Sherman Minton Bridge, but it has had a major effect on my life. I live in New Albany but work in Jeffersonville and Louisville. So I have to drive across the river daily, like many others. The recent traffic has been bad, yet not as bad as I thought it would be. The governments are doing a stellar job of dealing with this mess, all things considered.

I do have an idea that might help. I remember my wife’s grandfather telling us years ago about all the changes that had happened since he was a young man who went to Louisville for work so long ago. He told us how he got across the river from New Albany — he drove on the railroad trestle. I gathered that the current railroad bridge from New Albany was a duel-use bridge for the trains and auto traffic. I have looked at the images online, and it looks to my untrained eye like there are still metal roadbeds intact on the structure. I’m wondering if it can be negotiated with Norfolk-Southern to return those to light vehicle use during this state of emergency.

It looks like the roadbed has been maintained for maintenance vehicles, so returning it to full service shouldn’t be too hard. I’m sure there would be a need for traffic signals to stop traffic while the bridge was in use by the trains, but it would certainly reduce the traffic loads on other bridges.

I have emailed this to both governors and to their lieutenant governors, the mayors of New Albany and Louisville, both Departments of Transportation and a few other government offices, and to many news outlets in hope that they will take a serious look at it. I hope the more who look at it the better. I heard from both mayors’ offices that the railroad was concerned about liability issues. Maybe some public support of the idea will help.
Bruce Thompson, New Albany, Ind.