Some things just work out so that everyone gets a piece of what they want. In politics, it’s called compromise; in city management it’s often called historic preservation and/or repurposing. In both cases, it arises from a commitment to doing what is best for the community being served.
On May 6th, 2015, just a few days ago, the city of New Albany paid Paul Smithey Construction Company to take down the old railroad overpass bridge over downtown’s Main Street. The old bridge is believed to have been built on-site in the late 1800s when new owners converted the Ship Island, Ripley and Kentucky Railroad to standard 4 ft. 8-1/2 in. “standard gauge.
Old railroad overpass bridge on its last day in its former location.
According to Mayor Tim Kent, the old bridge has been stored at a city street department facility since its removal on May 6th. According to our research, the railroad bridge’s 63,000 pounds (31.5 tons) of milled steel could bring about $3,500 into the city coffers, at May 2015 market prices for mixed ferrous scrap metal.
The bridge’s removal was accomplished in order to make way for a new 120 foot span that would carry Tanglefoot Trail traffic over Main Street while providing ample clearance for large trucks traveling on Main. The old bridge’s previous “low clerance” resulted in a great deal of trouble for the city, local drivers, local businesses and the trucking company involved whenever the bridge was struck. This typically happened a couple of times per year.
Famously misspelled “low clerance” bridge awaits new home.
Never the less, there have been some who thought that, because of the “historical importance” of the railroad to New Albany, there could have been other solutions to the problem: raising the bridge, changing the approaches, re-routing large trucks around the bridge, etc.
Enter Jill Smith, Union County Heritage Museum Director. She says that because of New Albany’s long history as a “railroad town,” many visitors make the town a destination to see the trains go by. At her suggestion, old “Clerance” will be placed on a museum-owned lot at the intersection of Highland Street and Jefferson Avenue, immediately north of the BNSF tracks, to become an observation platform facing the busy tracks. Locals and visitors will have a unique venue from which to observe the trains “up close and personal.”
A “win, win” situation, in our opinion. Main Street traffic runs unimpeded, Tanglefoot Trail has a good-looking new bridge, “Clerance” is repurposed in a thoughtful manner that pays homage to his historic role. Please, just don’t paint over his name!