News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News Columns

August 22, 2013

MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River

TERRE HAUTE — Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.

In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.

On a mild Tuesday morning in May, Ted Ellis was describing the skepticism about a Wabash River project that became a reality in his own Indiana town of Bluffton, where he happens to be the mayor. Ellis’ words just as easily could be applied to Terre Haute, a city six times larger than Bluffton (population 9,990). In the 1980s, long before Ellis became mayor, Bluffton took the then-bold step of building its Wabash River Greenway, a scenic, 2.5-mile path paralleling the stream. The greenway has since been extended and has spawned other riverside enhancements there.

As Ellis spoke while sitting in a small riverbank park, numerous people ambled by on the greenway — seniors, young joggers, pairs of moms pushing strollers.

“The hardest sell was to put the greenway in place in the beginning,” Ellis said. “A lot of people in the ’80s said, ‘Nobody will ever use that thing,’ [but] they did. It’s like the old phrase, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and they did. [Now], you’ll find people who’ll say, ‘I thought that it was the stupidest thing ever, but I love it now.’”

Seconds later, retired Indiana state trooper Ted Biberstine, walking with his wife, stopped and said, “There was a lot of skepticism but I didn’t have any. [The greenway] is one of the great things about Bluffton.”

Which brings us to the stellar proposal Terre Haute should consider.

Earlier this year, five Rose-Hulman civil engineering students unveiled their design for a double-faceted Banks of the Wabash Heritage Trail. First, it would create a riverfront trail from First and Canal streets to Fairbanks Park. Second, the students’ plan features a “cantilever” pedestrian bridge across the Wabash. The cantilever bridge would attach to the south side of the eastbound Dreiser Memorial Bridge.

In a nutshell, their proposal would let people walk, run or bike beside the Wabash or over it. The twin Paul Dresser and Dreiser bridges include a walkway, but the cantilever bridge would be a safer option for folks who walk or bicycle between Terre Haute and West Terre Haute. The Rose students’ plan would allow the National Road Heritage Trail to eventually extend south to Interstate 70 and west toward the Wabashiki wetlands and Illinois.

It would removes barriers to Terre Haute’s most famed natural asset for, well, Hauteans and prospective visitors.

The cost would be $1,228,900 — $658,700 for the riverbank trail, and $570,200 for the cantilever bridge across the Wabash. The cantilever concept would cost far less than building a new stand-alone pedestrian bridge.

“It’s an extremely cost-effective way to facilitate that,” said Kevin Sutterer, associate professor of civil engineering at Rose-Hulman and head of that department.

The students — then-seniors Zack Howe, Evan Land, Brian Weiner, Caleb Nickels and Adam Carlson — prepared the design as their senior project for Pat Martin, chief planner for the city of Terre Haute’s engineering department. Martin has pitched several community projects to Rose seniors during the past decade, a connection that benefits the future engineers and the community. This group, guided by Rose faculty mentor Jeremy Chapman, “was extraordinary,” Sutterer said.

It is quite detailed. They studied existing structures, impediments and future plans, such as Indiana State University’s intention to build athletic facilities west of Third Street. On the riverbank trail, they chose a “bank cut-in” format with an L-shaped, paved path and a railing to continue the trail under the two bridges.

The students also used their own eyes and perception. They added the cantilever bridge on their own, after noticing numerous people walking and bicycling across the Wabash on the traffic-busy Dresser and Dreiser bridges. “Certainly, this would make a much safer crossing,” Sutterer said.

Such an amenity would benefit Terre Haute in multiple ways, turning the Wabash into a destination.

“It opens up the riverfront to riverbank tourism,” Martin said.

“I would be delighted to see that happen,” added Sutterer. “It would be so good for the community.”

Turning the students’ work into reality would take time. The Indiana Department of Transportation would have to agree that the trail and bridge are needed and that the benefits outweigh the cost, Martin explained. City and county officials also would have to approve it. Patient commitment would be necessary. The project could extend into the next decade.

Next month, Martin will present the plan to the leaders of Riverscape, a local nonprofit group advocating Wabash beautification and development.

Support from the general public is crucial, too.

“If there is a community consensus on doing something like this,” Martin said, “this is the first step in the process.”

The Rose students’ ingenuity is a great local resource. So is the Wabash. The community should utilize both.

Today’s skeptics might turn out to be believers.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
News Columns
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Raw: Earthquake Rocks Mexico's Gulf Coast US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia New Sanctions on Key Sectors of Russian Economy Raw: NH Man Held on $1M in Teen's Kidnapping 'The Bachelorette' and Her Beau Go Public Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City
NDN Video
Heartwarming 'Batkid Begins' Documentary is Tear-Jerker Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Broken Water Main Floods UCLA "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH)
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity