The Big Four Bridge Marches On

| March 7, 2013

By ASHLEY ANDERSON
Staff Writer
The Voice-Tribune 

You may have noticed a strange, red glimmer shining from the Ohio River as you pass by at night. Though not a natural occurrence, the crimson hue emanating from the Big Four Bridge is a man-made phenomenon signaling hope, in light of the arrival of March.

While typically associated with St. Patrick’s Day, March is also a call for celebration of American Red Cross Month. In honor of the occasion, the Big Four Bridge will be lit in red throughout March to help bring attention to the Red Cross and the tremendous support it provides to those experiencing crises.

As if you needed another reason to visit the latest popular hot spot in downtown Louisville – The once abandoned bridge has been thriving with foot traffic since its grand opening on Feb. 7. Once considered the “Bridge That Goes Nowhere,” the span is undoubtedly headed in a new, promising direction, adding to the beauty and activity of the ever-transforming Waterfront Park.

“The opening of the Big Four Bridge exceeded our expectations, not only in the size of the crowd, but the wonderful weather that we enjoyed that day,” said David Karem, president and executive director of Waterfront Development Corporation (WDC). “The crowd was universally positive and enthusiastic about the bridge, and it’s been very rewarding.”

On any given day, rain or shine, curious pedestrians, cyclists and canines on leashes are seen traversing the span from Waterfront Park. With a paved, circular ramp near Tumbleweed on River Road, the Big Four Bridge is easy to access, offering breathtaking landscapes and an incredible view of downtown Louisville, including the KFC Yum! Center – also aglow in red for March – Slugger Field and booming Main Street eateries.

As you reach the top, you receive a brief history of the structure from a hanging plaque, which dedicates the Big Four Bridge to the 42 workers who perished during its construction between 1888 and 1895. Two solid lines along the deck indicate where rail access once existed when the bridge’s former purpose had been to transport freight and passengers to and from Indiana before closing in 1969. With the converted pedestrian and bicycle path in 2013, the lines now represent the appropriate areas for walkers, joggers and bikers to traverse. Bikers are to remain in the center of the bridge, while those on feet should steer toward the left or right side, allowing for more opportunity to pause and delight in the scenery.

The Big Four Bridge permits bicycles and tricycles, but no motor transportation, unless it’s a service vehicle. The pavement is steady and even for wheelchair access, though the slightly steep ramp at the beginning may be challenging without some assistance. Once you arrive at the peak, however, it’s smooth sailing. There’s even pleasant music playing toward the middle of the bridge, but you’ll only hear it for a few minutes as you make your way toward the other side.

If you’d like to stop and savor the moment, there are several benches lining the bridge: three every 75 feet, or so. Also, standing at the top is one lone trash can – Pet people, take note for when your dog does his business. “I’m delighted to have a bicycle/running/walking route between Kentucky and Indiana,” said Terry Meiners of WHAS. “Let’s just remind dog owners that we already have a Second Street Bridge. We don’t need a Turd Street Bridge.”

In all, the 1-mile walk to the unfinished Jeffersonville, Ind. side is short and sweet, but a chance to experience a never-before-seen side of Louisville while taking in a dose of exercise. The Big Four Bridge is essentially complete, though the ramp on Indiana’s side won’t be finished until sometime next spring. “(It’s) truly fun and different – A wonderful and invigorating way to experience our River City,” said Louisville resident Carolyn Makk. “I challenge Indiana to get to work and make the experience complete.”

Additionally, WDC is looking to add decorative lighting to the bridge that will require some fundraising, according to Karem. Also coming soon is the installation of three artifacts from the original span, plus the opportunity to purchase food and beverages at the top of the bridge from seasonal vendors.

It took almost a quarter of a century and around $20 million in funding, but the Big Four Bridge’s revitalization has been well worth the investment. And, if the success of the grand reopening is any indication, the former “Bridge That Goes Nowhere” has left Louisvillians and Hoosiers with a lot more to look forward to in the future of this city.

For more information on the Big Four Bridge, visit www.louisvillewaterfront.com/projects/big_four.

Big Four Bridge Buzz

“It’s gorgeous and a great use of something old as something new and will be a great asset to the city!” – Chelsea Reeves

“I think they completed it at the wrong time of the year. However, I think the Big Four Bridge walkway can do nothing but good for the cities of Louisville and Jeffersonville. People want more safe access to bike and walk around the city, and this is one of the best ways to do it. You can’t go wrong when you connect communities together.” –  Kelly Kramer 

“Kudos for our community to put this crown on the development of our Waterfront. I saw plenty of runners, dog walkers and families. I can even see this walkway as a part of future endurance events such as Ironman or locally produced running races!” – Linden Ferguson

Wrapped In Red

In addition to the Big Four Bridge lighting up in red throughout March, Churchill Downs will create a similar spectacle, lighting the twin spires in red leading up to the Red Cross’ Wrapped in Red Gala, held Saturday, March 16, at The Seelbach Hilton Hotel, 500 S. Fourth St. Additionally, The KFC Yum! Center will radiate in red through March 16, and the venues comprising Fourth Street Live! will display red bows and signage to promote the gala.

The third annual Wrapped in Red Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails, followed by a specially-prepared, four-course dinner. The evening also includes live and silent auctions, as well as dancing to the Endless Summer Band. The Red Lounge will open at 9 p.m. Guests of the Red Lounge will enjoy dancing, mingling, a silent auction, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. All proceeds benefit American Red Cross community disaster programs.

Tickets to the Wrapped in Red Gala are $200; $75 for the Red Lounge. For more information, visit www.redcross.org.

Contact writer Ashley Anderson at aanderson@voice-tribune.com, 502.498.2051.

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Category: Cover Stories

About the Author (Author Profile)

Ashley Anderson

Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).

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