County earmarks $1.7M in federal money for Bridge 71

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When the Putnam County Commissioners voted not to bypass Dunbar Covered Bridge last fall, it left a pot of federal bridge money unused.

If Putnam County didn't use the $1.7 million administered by the Federal Highway Works Administration (FHWA) and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), the county risked the funds being revoked and used elsewhere in the state.

With this in mind, the commissioners voted Monday to transfer the money from the Dunbar project and earmark it for Bridge 71 in southern Floyd Township.

The iron bridge crosses Clear Creek on the 3000 block of County Road 500 East. County Highway officials reported the bridge to be in grave need of repair.

With county approval, the plan still needs approval from INDOT and FHWA, however, INDOT officials at the Crawfordsville office have already tentatively reviewed the plan.

Had the county chosen to do nothing with the money, INDOT would have eventually taken note that the funds had been allocated for about a decade with no action taken. The state agency could have pulled the funding without notice.

As with all state or federal bridge funding, the county had to use the money on bridges, not roads.

The commissioners received a report on one bridge project already in progress. The work by Duncan Robertson contractors on the Houck Iron Bridge has continued through the winter with the disassembly of the old bridge and the construction of piers for the new bridge.

Pier construction is actually moving forward slowly, as water has been high recently. When the workers are unable to work on the piers, though, they continue to disassemble and inventory the pieces of the old bridge.

When disassembly is complete, the bridge will be shipped to Delphi, where it is being donated to the Wabash and Erie Canal Society.

The commissioners had to approve a couple of change orders to the bridge, which included paying $68,000 for reinforcing steel and $255,500 for structural steel.

The money is not actually an added cost to the project, just a matter of paying for the steel up front. As the project moves forward, the $323,500 will be reimbursed to the county.

In one last bit of county highway business, the commissioners approved a weight limit ordinance for county roads.

The new ordinance does not affect any specific county roads at this time. Instead, it puts a law on the books, making weight limits enforceable should county officials find that any particular road is being damaged by vehicles abusing the posted weight limits.

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