During the 1970s and 1980s, local radio station WLRS-102 FM lit up the Big Four Bridge as part of their "Bridge the Gap" Christmas promotion, which was used as a fund raiser for needy local families. The bridge caught fire on at least four occasions; in 1987 both the Jeffersonville and Louisville Fire Departments fought eight hours to put out the blaze. On May 7, 2008 the bridge caught fire again, and a boat from the Harrods Creek Fire Department was used to put out the fire, as Louisville's fire boat did not have a hose which could reach the blaze upon the bridge. It took two and a half hours to control the fire.
On February 15, 2011, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced the two states, along with the City of Jeffersonville, would allocate $22 million in funding to complete the Big Four Bridge – creating a pedestrian and bicycle path to link Louisville and Jeffersonville. The agreement turned the unused, rusting hulk into a new pathway, providing connections from Louisville’s Waterfront Park to downtown Jeffersonville.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said at the time. “The Big Four will not only link both sides of the Ohio River, it helps bridge our communities together. We are one city, one community and one family, as I said in my inaugural address. Let me add a fourth element: We are one region. This project is proof of that.”
So today, looking at this marvelous addition to Louisville’s world-class parks system, I have to admit that I am glad that my efforts to tear the bridge down, back in 1971, came to naught. My failure led inexorably to today’s success.
By the way, back when I was fighting to demolish the Big Four, I had a clever and hard-working assistant over at City Hall, by the name of Bob Manning. Same guy who rode his bike across the bridge today. Small world. (But I’d hate to have to paint it.)
Learn more: The Big Four Bridge