September 05, 2012It will be a while before the work begins, but a couple of major bridge projects in Crawford County are moving along.
Bids are scheduled to be let on the replacement of Bridge No. 129, better known as the "curved bridge," on South Milltown Road in November 2013.
The project will cost $2.7 million and will be funded by an 80/20 federal grant administered by the Indiana Department of Transportation. The county's portion will be $569,122.
The bridge, just northwest of town about a half-mile south of the intersection of S.R. 64 and S.R. 66 North, was temporarily closed in March 2008 after a routine annual inspection revealed that the deck had dropped about three inches due to a pier having eroded because of water leaking through the deck.
Originally supposed to be closed just a few weeks for repairs, the bridge didn't re-open until June of that year. The repairs, however, were never considered a long-term solution, as the project engineer said the bridge would need to be rehabilitated or replaced within the next five to 10 years.
"We've bought the time to do that," Brent Roberts, of Butler, Fairman & Seufert Civil Engineers, told the county commissioners at the time.
The bridge, which spans above the railroad tracks, is unique. Built in 1937, it is believed to be the first curved bridge in Indiana and, at one time, was on official state documentation.
Despite a request this past June from the Indiana Historic Landmarks Association that the bridge be rehabilitated instead of replaced, the commissioners have chosen to tear it down and erect a new structure. Because of the condition of the bridge, rehabilitation would cost more, they said.
However, IHLA also requested that, if the bridge wasn't rehabilitated, the county make every effort to recreate its character and keep the same road alignment with the new structure. The commissioners and engineer indicated they will attempt to do so.
With the bids not being let until late next year and construction expected to take some time, the bridge may not be completed for several years, possibly not until 2016 or later.
The replacement of Bridge No. 80, which also crosses the Norfolk Southern railroad, on Overhead Bridge Road west of Taswell, has been in the works even longer. Recently, however, the project has undergone a sort-of reset.
The project is estimated to cost $2.6 million, and, like the Bridge No. 129 replacement, will be funded through an 80/20 federal grant through INDOT, meaning the county should be responsible for approximately $566,000.
District 2 Commissioner Randy Gilmore, who represents the area, said a change in how INDOT administers financing on such projects will save the county money. In the past, preliminary engineering work would not have counted toward the county's 20-percent match, he said.
"We'd been out probably $200,000 or a little bit more," he said.
The county is preparing to pick an engineer, he said, adding, once the preliminary plans are completed, a bid letting should be scheduled.
Gilmore said a couple of hundred feet of the road south of the bridge will need to be built to a higher elevation as the new bridge must be two feet higher because of railroad regulations, but the entire project shouldn't take long, probably just a matter of months.
The new bridge, which will be highway rated, will be 24 feet wide, making it accessible to farmers, as well as school buses and ambulances, he said.
While those are the county's two biggest bridge projects, they aren't the only ones. Each of the county's 75 bridges — a structure must be at least 20 feet long to be classified as a bridge — is required to be inspected every two years — annually if on the critical list — and must be continuously maintained.
"It's a never-ending thing, taking care of them," Perry Leonard, superintendent of the Crawford County Highway Department, said.
The highway department, he said, often can do the work itself and many times at less cost. For instance, the county just replaced a bridge on Allen Creek Road northwest of Taswell for $70,000 that likely would have cost $40,000 more if the work was farmed out, he said.
Gilmore said that adds up to even bigger savings over time.
"Probably, with all of the bridges we've built, we've saved the county $300,000," he said.
Plus, because of better equipment available today, the bridges, which are highway rated, should last longer, up to 70 years or so, he said.
"They're just a better bridge than what was built years ago," he said.
Still, with just $100,000 in the 2012 budget for bridge repairs, work must be prioritized, Leonard said, adding that less expensive solutions, such as culverts, are used when possible.
"In talking to the inspectors, our bridges are as good as any other county," he said. "With our funding and stuff, they say we do a good job keeping up."