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Crawford gets funding for 2 bridges

June 18, 2008
In March, Crawford County officials made their case to an award panel at the Indiana Department of Transportation to obtain federal monies to rehabilitate County Bridge No. 45 at Alton, as well as replace the bridge on Overhead Bridge Road near Taswell.

In late April, the panel's decision to award Crawford County $827,200 in Local Public Agency bridge funding was confirmed by a selection committee in Indianapolis, with the county responsible for paying 20 percent of total construction costs.

Of the grant amount, $514,000 was delegated to help get the small, historic Alton Bridge back up to standard, with the total cost being around $900,000.

The structure on Overhead Bridge Road had previously received a $1.9 million federal grant from INDOT that was originally going to be used on the downtown Milltown bridge project before the site being considered was deemed too expensive and another location, using local funds, was selected.

The Overhead Bridge Road structure, built around 1907 and refurbished in the late 1960s, will now be rebuilt starting in 2010. It will be upgraded from a former weight capacity of five tons to a highway standard of 40 tons.

The Alton Bridge will remain at a capacity of 12 tons.

Crawford County was one of five municipalities competing for roughly $6.1 million in LPA bridge funding. The Crawford sites were chosen and approved based on the bad shape of the two bridges, financial need by location, and the fact that INDOT had already granted $1.9 million to the county for other projects.

The process for rehabilitating the Alton bridge started about five years ago with then-District 3 Commissioner Al Tucker. Currently, the project is being moved by his successor, Jim Schultz, with only a few snags left in sight. Since the bridge is considered a historic landmark, reconstruction of the bridge has taken some agreeing upon with the state.

"We originally were trying to replace beams and panels and such with steel," Schultz said. "However, the bridge being a historical site, the state requested we keep it wood, its original material."

Along with guidelines to keep the bridge closely related to its original construction, trouble with the engineering firm hired to oversee rehabilitation of the bridge and monetary problems due to inflation have slowed the process.

Before all specifications were met for construction, the engineering firm originally brought in to oversee the project dropped out of the engineering business and had to sublet the current project to another firm. Since preliminary plans for original construction must be approved before funds are even considered by INDOT, losing the original engineering firm was a time costly problem for the commissioners. After original plans are approved, steps toward actual construction include cost approval, final engineering approval, and then the submission of bids for the construction itself.

Complications for the Overhead Bridge Road structure in Taswell have been a bit more elaborate. The bridge is owned by the Norfolk Southern railway company, where it currently has two tracks running through the area, District 2 Commissioner Randy Gilmore said. The company's approval has been a crucial factor in securing funds and getting construction started.

"The tracks see substantial traffic as it is," Gilmore said. "They (Norfolk Southern) usually have about 15 or 20 trains running on those tracks per day."

Along with upgrading the bridge at the Overhead Bridge Road site, Norfolk Southern is also trying to add a third track to increase the already steadily trafficked site, Gilmore said.

As it stands, no complications will arise with train schedules when construction begins. Overhead Bridge Road, however, will be closed with detours in place during construction.

Along with county funding and support from INDOT, Norfolk Southern is currently deciding on its own contribution to make sure everything is done properly, Gilmore said.

Total cost for the two bridge projects will be around $2.8 million.

During their regular monthly meeting on June 26 at 9:30 a.m., the Crawford County commissioners hope final costs and contribution can be agreed upon between the state, county and railroad.

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Barbara Shaw
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