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Thousands Cheer New Downtown Bridge, But One Man Sees It Differently

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Maurice Mousty doesn't have to look far to see his neighborhood changing.

In the 50 years since he settled in to his modest home on West Maple Street in Jeffersonville, many of the familiar families have moved on.

Rental properties now dot the cul-de-sac where he raised a son and a ramshackle van belonging to the tenants across the street now sits rotting in front of Mousty's home.

The most noticeable change, though, is just beyond his property line. On Saturday, a giant piece of infrastructure drew thousands of people from across Metro Louisville to Mousty's neighborhood.

The newly named and near completed Abraham Lincoln Bridge spans the Ohio River and connects southern Indiana to downtown Louisville. The $2.6 billion project began in 2012 and on Monday morning, the new bridge will open to traffic for motorists traveling on Interstate 65.

Officials in Indiana and Kentucky have called the project transformational, and federal transportation leaders have touted the ability of workers to finish construction of the new downtown bridge well ahead of schedule.

On Saturday, residents were invited to walk across the bridge. Tens of thousands showed up to do just that.

Many began waiting in line as early as 7 a.m. for a chance to be among the first residents to stroll across the suspension bridge. Some became restless awaiting remarks from Indiana and Kentucky governors Mike Pence and Steve Beshear — a few broke into chants of "let's go" and others shouted much harsher words at the elected officials for prolonging the moment.

Mousty opted to stay inside on Saturday in his robe and slippers. He said he'd go, but he's had three heart attacks in recent years, and walking a few blocks leaves him winded and worn out.

He's retired, and his wife died years ago. He spends a lot of time at home and has been able to watch the bridge construction since it began. Bangs and clangs have become common background noise along West Maple Street, he said.

"All night last night," he said. "Two nights in a row they were working to get it done for today."

The construction has driven some of his neighbors out and forced others away. He said a few houses across the street fell victim to the infrastructure.

"I'd rather they took my house than build the bridge over me," he said.

The unkempt rental properties surrounding his home never sent him to a real estate agent, but he said the bridge might. He's contemplating selling, even though he likes his home. It's comfortable, sturdy and filled with memories. Still, he knows a house on a dead end street just a stone's throw away from a major interstate isn't the hottest real estate item.

"They say it'll make your property worth more, but I'm not going to get no more out of it. They're not kidding me. I wasn't born yesterday," he said.

From his front door on Saturday, Mousty watched the families pass by, making their way to the new bridge to pose for photos and lean over the edge for a glance at the passing Ohio River.

He smiled as they climbed up the embankment and trudged through his yard. The people don't bother him; he said the day's crowd is nothing compared to Thunder Over Louisville in the spring.

Plus, he knows this is just a one-day affair. The crowds will disappear.

And soon the bangs and clangs of construction will stop, and the cars and trucks and big rigs will begin barreling across the bridge.

"I'm not really looking forward to that," he said.

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Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.