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Work started two weeks ago on long-anticipated repairs to the bridge over Harrods Creek on River Road, but now that work has stopped indefinitely.
U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson issued a temporary restraining order Monday, halting work on the popular commuting route for Oldham residents until a lawsuit is resolved.
River Fields, an Ohio River corridor conservation group, filed suit in May 2008 to keep the bridge one lane after needed repairs. Work so far has only been to remove the roadbed and other work that is necessary whether the bridge is widened or not, Kerri Richardson, a spokesperson for Louisville Metro Public Works, said.
Plans are to reinforce the supporting arches and widen the bridge surface by 12 feet, creating enough room for two lanes, Richardson said. She said extra time and money has gone to maintaining the original character of the bridge, built in the early 1900s.
“The new bridge is gonna look an awful lot like the original bridge,” she said.
The expected cost is about $2.3 million, she said.
Don Cox, an attorney for River Fields, said preservation of the historic character of the bridge is important, but his organization’s main concern is safety.
He said the one-lane bridge serves to slow down drivers on the curvy road. A two-lane bridge lends to higher speeds on River Road, he said, and could create more crashes. They have also filed a suit with the U.S. Coast Guard in hopes of preventing the widening.
Richardson said while no major crashes have occurred on the bridge, minor crashes do regularly. Broken bits of taillights and headlights littered the roadway before a state engineer declared the structure unsafe, closing the road in November.
River Fields hired an engineer to independently check the bridge; he declared it sound other than the eroding guardrails.
The project is slated for completion in mid-December, Richardson said, unless the lawsuit changes things.
While the city, River Fields and Simpson decide what to do, Brent George, the owner of Cunningham’s Creekside restaurant can only wait.
He’s not sure how much the bridge closing has affected his business, but he knows it’s inconvenienced his customers coming from the Oldham County side of the creek — making them drive up to 15 minutes longer to get to his restaurant. He’s afraid a long-term closure may alter traffic patterns away from his restaurant.
“As far as I’m concerned, it can be one, two or 10 lanes. I just want it open,” he said.
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