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.
The day of my tour was cold and rainy, meaning the site was considerably muddy, but the sight of massive curving beams that form the approach to the pedestrian and bicycle crossing over the Ohio River to Jeffersonville was worth it.
An initial earthen mound forms the beginning of the elliptical spiral that ramps 60 feet into the air to meet the Big Four Bridge. While the site was nearly abandoned on my visit, on a less rainy day, 25 to 50 workers would be seen preparing sections of the ramp.
Each of the four ramp sections and columns was manufactured in Tampa, Florida of steel that forms a naturally rusty finish meant to blend with the patina of the 1890s-era bridge. The elliptical shape presented a challenge over what could have been a typical circular ramp. Instead of one radius to conform to, the ramp contains seven radii.
Ramp sections consist of two parallel structural channels that are accessible for maintenance and repair work. Small portals at each end will allow access into the dark and confined spaces. Three cranes on site capable of lifting 100, 160, and 250 tons respectively have been used to hoist the steel into the air. Each section rests on rubber pads on the piers and a central column will be filled with concrete to further secure the ramp.
A concrete deck wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicles will be poured on top of the steel structure leading to the bridge. A 60-foot diameter platform sits at the base of the bridge and is sure to offer amazing views of the surrounding area when complete.
When funds are available, two I-beams will be installed on the Big Four Bridge and a concrete deck poured on top. Existing wooden railroad ties and debris must first be cleared, but much has already been heavily damaged or destroyed in a fire on the bridge last year. Stimulus funds are being sought to help pay for the Big Four decking and more details will be available in December.
You may also recall two proposals for installations on the Big Four Bridge site. One plan calls for a $500,000 pavillion nestled under the bridge approach designed by architects DeLeon & Primmer of Shelby Street. The pavilion is meant to draw attention to and honor the Hill sisters who wrote “Happy Birthday to You.” At IdeaFestival 2008, Arne Quinze of Belgium proposed an intricate wooden lattice “cloud” weaving through the bridge over the Ohio River. The plan called for interpretive stations detailing local history and even solar panels that would allow the cloud to glow and play music.
- Park Watch: Steel Columns Arrive At Big Four Bridge (Broken Sidewalk)
- Wasteland No More: The Greening Of Waterfront Park (Phase III) (Broken Sidewalk)