Closed bridges solution wont be cheap for county

Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Bridge 45 in Jackson Township (left) and Bridge 71 in Floyd Township remain closed indefinitely.
Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN

A pair of troubled bridges over water have Putnam County officials in a quandary.

After failing inspection last month, Bridge 45 in Jackson Township and Bridge 71 in Floyd Township were closed indefinitely.

At the time, Putnam County Highway Supervisor Mike Ricketts expressed his hope that a relatively inexpensive fix could be found, such as two years ago when an even older iron bridge in Warren Township required only $10,000 of work.

No such luck this time.

On Monday, Ricketts told the Putnam County Commissioners that rehabilitating the two bridges would come at a combined estimated cost of $1.4 million.

Alternatively, new bridges would cost a minimum of $2 million to $2.4 million each.

The county has a total of about $900,000 budgeted annually for all bridge and culvert maintenance.

Long story short, its going to be closed for a while until we can figure out what to do, Ricketts said.

One funding solution could be the issuance of bonds to finance a project.

So what are our options? Commissioner Rick Woodall asked.

We could bond it out, Ricketts said.

The possibility of a bond issuance has at least two of the commissioners thinking about the long-term viability of continuing to apply band-aids to bridges that are more than a century old.

The reality is, if you spend $1.5 million, its still an iron bridge, Woodall said. And if you spend more, its a new bridge.

Built in 1915, Bridge 45 carries County Road 900 East over Big Walnut Creek, a little more than one mile south of State Road 236. The road and bridge sit on the Hendricks County line.

Prior to the closure, the through-truss iron bridge had a 12-ton rating.

Also built in 1915, Bridge 71 is another through-truss iron structure. It carries County Road 500 East over Clear Creek downstream of Heritage Lake. The affected stretch of road runs between 300 North and 375 North.

Prior to the closure, the bridge had a three-ton rating.

I struggle with spending a million and a half bucks on bridges that are 100-plus years old, Woodall said.

We have to think about the next generation, Berry said. I think we should replace the bridges.

Complicating such a plan is that Bridge 45 has been deemed historically significant, meaning that it could not simply be torn down and the pieces scrapped.

Instead, such bridges must be preserved in some way, whether that means bypassing them and leaving them in place, relocating them for another use such as a park or even dismantling them and storing them for future use.

In 2014, the county had a contractor take Houck Iron Bridge down before trucking the pieces to the Wabash and Erie Canal Park in Delphi. The old bridge now serves as a pedestrian bridge at the park.

Ricketts also noted that McCloud Nature Park, just upstream from Bridge 45 in Hendricks County, utilizes a similar bridge for pedestrians.

Added to all this, Woodall wondered aloud if the county is going to go so far as to issue bonds, should it consider replacing other aging bridges?

Whatever the ultimate solution, for now it remains a waiting game for the county.

In a better piece of bridge news, Ricketts gave an update on Bridge 279, an abandoned bridge over CSX Railroad in Madison Township.

Rather than having to pay to tear down the bridge, the county could instead enter into an agreement to vacate the right-of-way over the railroad, which would leave CSX to take down the bridge at some point in 2020.

Ricketts had been contacted last month by CSX about tearing down the bridge, which the railroad had deemed to be unsafe.

The bridge was permanently closed to traffic in 2003 but at the time was deemed sound enough to stay in place.

Sixteen years of aging has the bridge much worse for wear, including extensive rust in some places and even trees growing from portions of the structure.

The commissioners unanimously approved petitioning to vacate the bridge to CSX.

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  • Rust,not rush.

    -- Posted by kubotafan on Wed, Apr 3, 2019, at 7:42 AM
  • What is the highway department going to do with the $1 million they received from the Community Crossings Grant?

    -- Posted by Ben Dover on Wed, Apr 3, 2019, at 8:21 AM
  • *

    Sell the iron bridges - they have to be worth something. Greencastle should buy one, maybe for Jaycee Park or Big Walnut Sports Park, and DePauw should buy the other to put in their big ol' nature preserve and then issue bonds for the new bridges.

    Give up the right of way for the bridge over the railroad (so that it becomes their problem).

    Not real sure why so much hand-wringing.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Wed, Apr 3, 2019, at 9:23 AM
  • *

    Guess I should've read that more closely... they did give up the right of way to the railroad. Good on 'em.

    Now, about these bridges... how much would it cost to move one of these things? Anyone know?

    I would like to start conversations. Maybe even start a fundraiser. If Greencastle doesn't want it, surely someone else will.

    In addition to the ones stated, old iron bridges are also utilized for foot traffic on the Amo/Coatesville trail; in Plainfield over by Swinford Park; and in Avon in the Washington Township Park.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Wed, Apr 3, 2019, at 3:06 PM
  • The million dollars can only be used for road paving.

    -- Posted by rickw on Wed, Apr 3, 2019, at 10:11 PM
  • I don't understand why we have to save every single iron bridge.

    -- Posted by Avenger1234 on Thu, Apr 4, 2019, at 7:15 AM
  • *

    Cloverman - its mostly nostalgia and aesthetics, I believe. I know it is for me.

    Iron bridges, like covered bridges have a certain character of their own.

    A lot of people feel the same way - hence why more and more municipalities are putting them in parks where they can be appreciated and utilized as foot bridges.

    If I had the right piece of land for it (a drive that must cross a creek/stream or even a drainage ditch) I would love to put one on my property.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Thu, Apr 4, 2019, at 8:50 AM
  • I respect that, I don't know if it's fair for the taxpayers to foot the bill to save them all. Just my opinion however.

    -- Posted by Avenger1234 on Thu, Apr 4, 2019, at 1:05 PM
  • *

    I understand and appreciate that. I don't like wasting taxpayer money either.

    But maybe we could get people/corporations/civic orgs to help save them, with a little bit of park appropriation money thrown in.

    And I still think one would be a great addition to the DePauw Nature Preserve, on their dime of course.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Thu, Apr 4, 2019, at 1:57 PM
  • Bridge #45 was on Federal Aid project for replacement several years ago. Project was pulled after objections from residents in the immediate area.

    -- Posted by kubotafan on Thu, Apr 4, 2019, at 9:01 PM
  • I'm sure there are other bridges that will be coming up with need for repair. All out infrastructure is getting old and people in past ignored the problem for the next guy.

    Is there a standard for which the bridges will be built to. If there built for at least 50 yrs. why not have a weight limit standard?

    So if a bond is going to be the way why not one big bond and setup a plan to repair all the bridges that need work.

    The repair that was done to the last bridge how long will that last and then what?

    Hard decisions will need to be made or things will just get worst.

    -- Posted by Togafarm on Fri, Apr 5, 2019, at 9:14 PM
  • Mark my word,Togafarm,Dunbar covered bridge will be the next structure to be closed!

    -- Posted by kubotafan on Sat, Apr 6, 2019, at 5:55 AM
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