The new bridge gateway project announced Tuesday by Mayor Damon Welch is a winner for Madison and Jefferson County.

The agreement calls for the state to pick up the estimated $14 million cost of constructing the new approach to the bridge while the city and county will take over ownership of some roads and bridges now maintained by the state.

It will be several years before we are able to travel the new approach. Environmental studies must be completed, land must be acquired and designs must be approved before the first shovel of dirt is moved.

The city has answered one of our concerns - can we afford the cost of maintaining the roads that will come under city control?

First, the city will not assume control until the gateway is completed. Until then, the state will continue maintenance. Second, the city can reserve funds in future budgets for road maintenance.

The fact is, it is a softer financial burden to handle the maintenance than having to find $14 million to pay for the new gateway project.

We also like the idea that the city will gain control of Main Street through downtown. That will allow the study of ideas that have been talked about for years - changing parking patterns, adjusting speed limits and beautification projects that previously would have required state approval.

The gateway also will enhance our economic development efforts. Entering and exiting Madison is difficult for large trucks which now must make sharp 90-degree turns on Second Street and again on Baltimore Street to get to Main Street and northbound U.S. 421. A new connector will link truck traffic directly to State Road 56, bypassing residential areas.

Also important is that the public will have input into the plan. Once environmental studies are completed, the public will be asked to participate in discussions on the best route for the bridge connector to State Road 56.

Discussions have been going on since talk of a new bridge began several years ago. It looks as if those talks are going to pay off in an important step forward for our community.