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January 23, 2014

Public hears about building new bridge

1932 steel structure on Indiana 46 to be replaced

CORY — More than a dozen people attended a public hearing Thursday night about replacing a bridge over Indiana 46 in Clay County that a state highway official calls “scary.”

 “I’m not an engineer but when you can see through steel, it’s not a good thing,” Indiana Department of Transportation Project Manager Ellie Dieckmeyer said. “I’ve been under the bridge. It’s scary. …”

INDOT conducted the meeting at the Clay County Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department in Cory for the proposed replacement of the bridge over Birch Creek, located 0.92 miles west of Indiana 59 in Clay County.

INDOT is currently completing emergency repair on the bridge.

The existing bridge, built in 1932, is a steel Warren pony truss bridge with concrete abutments, a steel superstructure and a concrete deck. It is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (National Register) under Criterion C for its engineering significance but is considered “not select” for preservation, according to INDOT.

Because it is a historic bridge, the public hearing was also conducted to provide the last opportunity for a responsible party (i.e. government, groups, etc.) to step forward and provide the necessary sureties to obtain ownership of the bridge. Because no one stepped forward, the bridge is set to be demolished and replaced at its current location, INDOT officials said.

During the meeting, several persons asked questions and offered suggestions.

One, Jack Knust, who lives about half a mile from the bridge, said he wanted to tell INDOT to build a bridge that’s wide enough for farm equipment to get through.

The replacement bridge will be wider, Dieckmeyer said.

According to INDOT,  the existing structure will be replaced with a new 112-foot long, three-span, reinforced concrete slab bridge on the existing alignment. It would have a 33-foot “outside to outside” width, with two 12-foot through lanes and 3-foot usable shoulders.  Construction of the project will require approximately 0.80 acres of new permanent right-of-way.

Dieckmeyer said the goal is to start construction in May.

One member of the audience, who refused to be identified by name, said because the bridge is currently closed for repairs, officials should “replace it now.” He also suggested that once the road is closed, INDOT should have more visible signs because he has frequently seen vehicles, including semi-trucks, turning around near his home. At night, there should be flashing lights, he said.

During the construction period, which may be most of this year, the road will be closed, and traffic is proposed to be detoured onto portions of Indiana 59 and Interstate 70. However, local routes may be used by local traffic, INDOT said.

Hansford Mann Jr., who, as a resident of the area since 1953, has a long history with the bridge and Birch Creek. He remembered fishing underneath the bridge and swimming in the creek as a kid.

But he thinks it is time for the bridge to be replaced.

“It’s a nice, old bridge, but it’s 2014. We need to think forward and give the public a safe bridge to traverse and something that will be serviceable” for many years, Mann said.

Comments regarding the proposed project are being collected from the public until Feb. 6. Comments can be sent to Mary Wright, INDOT, 100 N. Senate Ave., N642, Indianapolis, IN 46204 or  email mwright@indot.in.gov.

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