LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The Kentucky and Indiana Bridge’s owner renewed its refusal to open the span to pedestrian traffic, several days after a fire temporarily closed the bridge.
Officials from Louisville, New Albany and Jeffersonville have said for years they want to use the century-old K&I as part of an Ohio River recreational loop.
The bridge, which has a rail corridor in the middle and pathways on either side that were once used for vehicle traffic, runs from New Albany to Louisville’s Portland neighborhood. There are numerous problems with opening the bridge to people, bridge company officials said.
“Norfolk Southern cannot allow pedestrian access to the K&I Bridge because of safety, liability and security concerns,” said Robin Chapman, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern Corp.
The proposed Kentuckiana River Trail would utilize the K&I and Big Four bridges, Louisville’s Riverwalk and the Ohio River Greenway in Indiana to form the loop.
It has stalled for years because of Norfolk Southern’s objections. At some points on the bridge, people could reach out and touch passing trains.
Elected leaders have discussed putting fences on the bridge and agreeing to language that eliminates Norfolk Southern’s liability in the case of an incident, said David Karem, executive director of the Waterfront Development Corp.
More people on the bridge could reduce homeland security concerns, not heighten them, Karem said.
“There’s a way to make it perfectly safe for pedestrians and bicyclists, and to make it safe for Norfolk Southern,” he said. “They just don’t want to be cooperative.”
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Todd Young, R-Indiana, said there was little Congress could do about the situation. Young has taken a tour of the bridge with Norfolk Southern representatives to hear their concerns.
“If there is a way to appease both sides by addressing safety concerns so the bridge can be opened to pedestrians, we’d love to play a role in bringing them together,” said Trevor Foughty, the spokesman.
A June 30 fire started on the bridge and spread to two train cars. It took firefighters about five hours to put it out, and the damage temporarily closed one of the tracks.