Big Four Bridge

Aerial view of Big Four Station in Jeffersonville. (Courtesy The Estopinal Group)
Aerial view of Big Four Station in Jeffersonville. (Courtesy The Estopinal Group)
Aerial view of Big Four Station in Jeffersonville. (Courtesy The Estopinal Group)
Aerial view of Big Four Station in Jeffersonville. (Courtesy The Estopinal Group)

On Thursday, July 19, Wayne Estopinal didn’t know what kind of response he would receive when he stood in front of a crowd in Jeffersonville to display his firm’s latest concepts for Big Four Station, a park surrounding the northern approach to the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge over the Ohio River. “I came here ready for a battle,” Estopinal said. “In reality, people really liked it. It was really well received.” Estopinal is principal at The Estopinal Group, an architectural firm with offices in Louisville and Southern Indiana who designed the latest component of the Big Four project with Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group.

4 16
Big Four Bridge today (Courtesy @Downtown_Lou/Twitter)
Big Four Bridge today. (Courtesy @Downtown_Lou/Twitter)

Now that the 60-foot-tall elliptical spiraling ramp up to the top of the Big Four Bridge in Waterfront Park has been completed for some time, officials are ready to begin work on the next phase of the bike and pedestrian bridge conversion.

The Big Four Bridge in 1906 (Broken Sidewalk)
The Big Four Bridge in 1906. (Broken Sidewalk)

While the Southern Indiana approach must still be built, work is about to begin on installing a concrete deck on top of the 1890s-era bridge. Work involves clearing the existing rotting wood deck, installing two I-beams across the length of the bridge, and pouring a concrete deck on top. It may not be fancy, but it will get you across the river.

While it won’t contain crazy 1960s condos or equally crazy modern sculpture, and it’s not looking good for a happy birthday pavilion underneath the ramp (and while the bridge will not be the longest in the country as officials are wont to claim), the bridge will offer a vitally needed pedestrian and bike link between Louisville and Southern Indiana. Currently, the only option for biking or walking across the Ohio River involves using the Clark Memorial/2nd Street Bridge with the speeding traffic that frequents it.

“This connection between our two communities will be an invaluable amenity for the whole region and will be a springboard for even more improvements in downtown Jeffersonville,” said Tom Galligan, Mayor of Jeffersonville, in a statement.

A total of $22 million has been committed for completing the project from Kentucky, Indiana, and Jeffersonville, including $12 million for replacing the deck contributed from Kentucky.

With the popularity of New York’s High Line park and similar projects proposed across the country, anyone have any ideas on creating a truly unique space on top of the bridge that could fit with the work already planned?

3 10
Condos on the Big Four Bridge (Courtesy Unbuilt America)
Condos on the Big Four Bridge (Courtesy Unbuilt America)
Condos on the Big Four Bridge (Courtesy Unbuilt America)
Condos on the Big Four Bridge. (Courtesy Unbuilt America)

Jasper Ward, the architect behind a proposal to turn a grain silo into a major housing development in the 1960s along with many other buildings including Portland Elementary, was interested in planning housing just about anywhere you could imagine. Among his other memorable proposals was a mixed-use neighborhood spanning the Ohio River on the Big Four Bridge.

Historic view of the Big Four Bridge (courtesy R.D. Schooling)
Historic view of the Big Four Bridge (courtesy R.D. Schooling)
Historic view of the Big Four Bridge. (Courtesy R.D. Schooling)

Now that the elliptical ramp up to the Big Four Bridge has been set into place sans its concrete walkway, Doug Proffitt of Whas11 took a trip up to the top platform to check out what must be one of the best views in Louisville. I can’t wait to check it out myself. See the video below which offers an up-close view of construction along with views of local landmarks.

2 8
Big Four Bridge Construction (Photo courtesy Steve Wiser)
Big Four Bridge Construction (Photo courtesy Steve Wiser)
Big Four Bridge Construction. (Steve Wiser)

Thanks to local architect Steve Wiser for sending in these photos of the Big Four pedestrian and bike bridge in Waterfront Park. Now that the elliptical spiral is completely airborne, it’s much easier to imagine taking a walk or ride to Jeffersonville in peace without using the Clark Bridge with its narrow sidewalks and speeding trucks. The next step involves installing a concrete deck on top of the steel structure, which it looks like has begun on part of the spiral.

Big Four Bridge Construction Site
Big Four Bridge Construction Site
Big Four Bridge Construction Site. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

About two weeks ago, I had a chance to tour the construction site at the Big Four Bridge and snap a few photos of construction progress at the final phase of Waterfront Park. Work has been moving along steadily, weather permitting, since these photos were taken, and additional pieces of the ramp structure have been lifted into place.

Elevated tracks of Big Four Bridge in Jeffersonville (courtest R.D. Schooling)
Riverfront rail in modern terms (rendering 8664, mockup R.D. Schooling)
Riverfront rail in modern terms. (rendering 8664.org, mockup R.D. Schooling)

Imagine boarding a train in New Albany and stepping off in Downtown Louisville, all the while watching carelessly from a window at riverboats passing slowly on the Ohio River. Louisville once had a superb train system running everywhere you could imagine throughout the city and region, radiating out like spokes on a bicycle wheel from Downtown.

Proposed route of Jeffersonville canal (courtesy City of Jeffersonville)
Proposed route of Jeffersonville canal (courtesy City of Jeffersonville)
Proposed route of Jeffersonville canal. (courtesy City of Jeffersonville)

Mayor Tom Galligan thinks a storm sewer can be beautiful and spur economic development in Jeffersonville. In one of the most ambitious moves in the entire region, Jeffersonville is proposing to build a canal district from the foot of the Big Four Bridge paralleling its historic downtown and anchored by a convention center and hotel.