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County has troubled bridge over water

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Replacing a bridge in Putnam County isn't as easy as it used to be.

A handful of years after trying to replace bridge No. 159 near Reelsville and winding up in the middle of a historic preservation project, the Putnam County Commissioners are finding themselves in the same situation.

Commissioners Kristina Warren, Gene Beck and Jim Baird continued discussions of bridge No. 146 during a meeting Monday night.

Warren explained that the bridge needs to be replaced, but the county does not have enough mo-ney to do it. Therefore, they must rely on federal grants to complete the estimated $1.6 million replacement.

The issue discussed Monday night is what to do with the current bridge. A condition of receiving federal help to build the new bridge requires the county do preserve the old bridge, as was the case with bridge No. 159 several years ago.

In the case of bridge No. 146, the State Historic Preservation Office is giving the county the option of dismantling and storing the current bridge for a period up to 15 years. Why, the commissioners learned Monday, is because someone -- be it a civic group, parks department, or local government body -- may want the old bridge to re-use for another purpose. There is apparently a database on the Internet where dozens of these bridges from around the state are made available for groups, or even private citizens, to buy.

The commissioners are in the midst of negotiating with the state preservation office in order to allow the bridge 146 project to move forward. They must decide what to do with the old bridge in order to receive the money for the new bridge.

Estimates to dismantle and store the bridge are more than $150,000, the commissioners learned.

Commissioner Baird suggested the county consider how much it would cost to simply lift the bridge from its current location and slide it over to an adjacent piece of county-owned land where it could sit. He suggested allowing the bridge, in its erected state, to stay there until the time required by the historic preservation people has expired.

The remaining two commissioners agreed to investigate Baird's suggestion. They hope it will cost far less than dismantling the bridge and moving it into storage.

The commissioners took the opportunity during Monday night's meeting to express their feelings about historic preservation of bridges. Warren said the county has more than 90 bridges in a condition that requires major repair, but there is simply not enough local money to get it done.

She said she thinks the county needs to put money into the bridges that need repaired rather than spend it on preserving an old bridge that is going to be replaced anyway.

The other commissioners appeared to be in agreement.

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Which bridge is No. 146?

-- Posted by VolunteerFF on Tue, May 20, 2008, at 6:53 AM

None of this is a surprise to the commissioners, consider the connections here and that these are always tied into politics and money.

The recent past commissioners made no bones about wanting all of the older bridges gone, be they iron, concrete even covered (if they had had the ability.) Their job is to attempt a perfect road system and we all want good roads but not to end all (1 mil Park co visitors can't be wrong). However they have in the past wanted to replace bridges that were entitled restoration and was no need for new concrete spans that sadly look like interstate ramps. Many of the beautiful bridges that still grace our crossings are there because of these groups and not because of county efforts.

They know well the cost and in the past there has been big tax money wasted to the engineering firms, making leaps without research and working numbers. There is a new PROGRAMMATIC AGREEMENT by FHA, DOT that has bridges assessed on restoration, what is the status of this one? Is was made to strike a balance and to stop wasting tax money.

-- Posted by ladyinthewoods on Tue, May 20, 2008, at 7:29 AM

The Commissioners should be fully aware of the programmatic agreement that was signed in the Summer of 2006. This process took years and included all transportation entities, including county commissioners. The current state wide bridge inventory that has been done by Mead & Hunt is in the final stages and near completion. Being unaware is either convenient or inexcusable. This is the commissioners job.

The commissioners must also know that buying a replacement bridge for 1.6 million dollars is not in the realm of reality. Not in this economy, most certainly not from BLN.

Dismantling and storing a structure for $150,000 is a bargain, in every way. Finding a company that will lift and move a bridge a short distance and not destroy the structure, again, $150,000 will be a bargain.

Folks, there is a reason the FHWA requires section 106 to be satisfied. It has stood the test of time and has been challenged hundreds of times and still stands. Learning the framework of your responsibilities and understanding that those who buy you the nicest dinners almost never have your counties' best interest at heart.

-- Posted by planning&development on Tue, May 20, 2008, at 9:45 AM

I wish the they were as concerned for these huge potholes in our roads. Leave our old bridges alone especially the covered ones! Don't you have anything better to do?

-- Posted by scubagal on Tue, May 20, 2008, at 10:25 AM

Is bridge 159 is storage somewhere?

-- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Tue, May 20, 2008, at 1:57 PM

Do we still have to chance to vote these commissioners out in November?

-- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Tue, May 20, 2008, at 1:58 PM

If the bridge is iron, here's a stupid thought! Get ahold of the Indiana State Farm and have the prisoners dismantle the thing, then put back together somewhere else. What else do they have to do? Oh my, wait a minute, would that be against their constitutional rights?

-- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Tue, May 20, 2008, at 2:00 PM

Putnam bridge 146 is called Houck Bridge, c 1905. It is on CR 25 E. and crosses the Big Walnut Creek.

Putnam bridge 159 is still at it's original location. The replacement bridge was built along side the original and the old bridge was supposed to be restored, by the county, to be a pedestrian bridge. Weather or not the county has fulfilled it's promise, I do not know.

-- Posted by planning&development on Tue, May 20, 2008, at 8:02 PM

Is this the Houck Covered Bridge they're talking about?

The covered bridges of Putnam County need to be preserved at all costs. Show me a commissioner who is not in favor of that and I'll show you someone who is not getting my vote.

-- Posted by FAW on Tue, May 20, 2008, at 10:38 PM

I believe bridge 146 is a metal truss (iron) bridge.

For the commissioners, it must be very difficult to sit between 2 counties that have utilized their historic sites and structures as part of their economic development plans and been quite successful. Putnam should embrace their diverse and historic features. It should be the icing on their cake, not a spur under their saddle blanket. They need to stop believing what ever the highway super says is worth chiseling in stone. I'm sure the super is a nice person with a educated philosophy on rural transportation. However, there are more options than one person's vision to achieve a desirable and beneficial outcome.

-- Posted by planning&development on Wed, May 21, 2008, at 7:20 AM

No, it's not the covered bridge. (thank god). Because we would probably be kissing that one good bye at this point. Bridge 146 is an iron bridge located 0.7 miles west of 25 east. 1.6 million seems a little steep, back in 05 when an inspection was done it was estimated to be replaced by year 2006 at a cost of $1,044,000. Inflation sure does hit hard in a short time period.

-- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Wed, May 21, 2008, at 7:21 AM

Does it not state that bridge #159 should have been rehabilitated? Because of the grant money that was received. Or was grant money not received. Does no one periodically check these things? The one paragraph makes it seem as though the bridge was replaced, then the old one should have been preserved.

-- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Wed, May 21, 2008, at 7:25 AM

I'm going to change my ticket to not vote for anyone who can't utilize these old bridges. Look at Orange and Parke Counties. Iron or covered they have found a way. Why can't we? I think these bridges add a special stlye and charm to our county. Each one is unique. We can't afford to lose ANY!

-- Posted by scubagal on Wed, May 21, 2008, at 7:45 AM

The old Reelsville bridge #159 was supposed to be rehabilitated by the county, at the cost of the county as part of the Letter of Agreement to receive federal funds for the new concrete behemoth.

It has been over a year since I have followed the progress but at last check, the county had not fulfilled their promise to rehabilitate the old bridge. The whole business was a mess from the beginning and the need for engineering/consulting/contracting firms to make buckets full of money finally won.

People lost their homes, and it is still a bridge to nowhere that looks inappropriate for it's environment and just plain out of place.

This is the cookie cutter bridge that the commissioners and the highway dept. want to replace all county owned bridges under 16 foot wide.

Sacrificing corporate morals and ethics for profit may be good in the short term for big business, but in the long run, it will rob us all, including those who chose greed.

-- Posted by planning&development on Thu, May 22, 2008, at 10:42 PM

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