$1.4 million project aimed to convert obsolete historic bridge into a bike trail
Even though it is not as serious as last year, there are many historic bridges in the US that are up for grabs this year, for they are either functionally obsolete (meaning they cannot handle today’s traffic) or sitting abandoned and posing a safety hazard because of the lack of maintenance. Some of these bridges will be profiled in the Chronicles in the coming weeks.
The Newbern Bridge in Bartholemew County, Indiana is one of those candidates, yet its future is about to be brighter. Located over Clifty Creek at North Newbern Road, ca. 10 miles east of Columbus, the 155-foot long Camelback through truss bridge, built in 1910 by the Vicennes Bridge Company, a local bridge builder, had been the subject of concern in the last few months because of a reduced weight limit, which forced many school busses and snow plows to turn around at the bridge’s entrance. The latest news story from the Columbus Republic from a week ago, had the bridge in the visier of the county for demolition.
It appears that the demolition plans will not happen after all.
The Indiana Dept. of Transportation, according to latest reports by the Republic, has agreed to allocate $584,000 to the project, which will relocate the bridge to Columbus, to be inserted over Haw Creek south of Eastbrook Plaza on the People Trail. The total cost for the project is $1.42 million, with 80% of the cost coming from financial support from the state. Construction is expected to begin later this year. Once the truss bridge is moved, a new bridge is expected to take its place. More information can be found here.
Bartholemew County has lost half of its bridges over the last 20 years- a stark contrast to the majority of counties in Indiana that have restored and reused many bridges similar to Newbern. Many of them disappeared this past decade alone, including the infamous demolition of a through truss bridge at Mill Race Park in Columbus, which had been relocated from its original crossing at White Creek and placed on concrete piers as an exhibit. City officials ordered the bridge removed to make way for a cultural center in 2010. Yet there seems to be a change of heart as some of the bridges, like the Galbraith Crossing, deemed unfit for traffic use, were repaired and reopened to accomodate vehicular traffic. That plus the high number of abandoned bridges make the county ripe for reusing them for recreational purposes, revitalizing some of the areas of the county that are in need.
The Newbern Bridge will be one of the first bridges in the county to be restored and reused for a bike trail. Yet as the decision will be well-received by many in the county, it will not be the last bridge that is restored and reused. With as many historic bridges as the county still has, it is highly likely that the next bridge ready to be taken off the highway system will join the Newbern Bridge on one of the county’s bike trails. This will fall into Indiana’s traditional role as the savior of historic bridges and its preservation policy.
The Chronicles will follow the developments and keep you informed on the latest.