State: Historic SR 162 bridge worth preserving

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

JASPER — The light blue bridge on State Road 162 just south of Jasper may seem to not be wide enough for two big trucks to pass each other comfortably, but the structure is protected from significant changes because it’s listed on the Indiana Historic Bridges Inventory.

The blue bridge is historically valuable to the state.

“By being designated as a select bridge, it must be preserved in place or moved for reuse in another location,” said Mary Wright, public hearing officer from the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Office of Public Involvement.

Wright hosted a public hearing Wednesday evening at the Jasper Public Library’s annex about rehabilitation work the state plans to do on the bridge next year. Work will include repairing cracks under the bridge, replacing the wearing surface and joints, taking care of increasing corrosion and painting the bridge the same light blue color.

“The first alternative has to be if it can be rehabilitated for normal traffic use,” Wright said. “If that can happen, then no other alternatives are considered. In this case, this bridge can be rehabilitated for vehicular use.”

The blue bridge was constructed in 1948 and rehabilitated in 1982. It is on the historic inventory because of its pony truss design. A pony truss bridge is a truss bridge which allows traffic through the truss, but is not joined across the top with cross braces.

“In the whole (bridge) inventory of the State of Indiana, out of all the pony truss bridges, this one is one of the best ones out there,” Wright said. “It is definitely worth preserving.”

About 7,300 county and state bridges are on the Indiana Historic Bridges Inventory, Wright said. Of those, 710 are either listed on or considered to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, with 434 of those being noted as a select bridge.

“That is a special designation,” Wright said. “(Select bridges) are an excellent example of its type (of bridge), and most suitable for preservation.”

Dubois County has four bridges in the inventory, but only one of them — the blue bridge — is a select bridge.

The handful of people at Wednesday’s hearing asked if the bridge could be widened. They, along with Dubois County Commissioner Elmer Brames, expressed safety concerns related to the bridge’s narrowness.

“At what point would safety and other factors enter into that?” Brames asked. At what point, he asked, would the state determine that a select bridge should be moved and a new bridge built in its place.

Rich Connolly, environmental scientist with Indianapolis engineering company HNTB, explained that the bridge’s 12-foot width meets the state’s current standards. If it didn’t, he said, since it is on the historic inventory, there would be a host of other options that would be considered, such as making the road across the bridge a single lane with stoplights at each end to direct traffic. Moving the bridge to another location would be one of the last options, he said.

“I understand,” Wright told meeting attendees. “But for now, the bridge is going to stay.”

Work on the bridge, estimated to cost $1 million, is expected to start in the spring and be completed September 2018. Eighty percent of the cost is being funded by the Federal Highway Administration.

Traffic can still use the bridge, but the work will shut down one lane at a time, Connolly said. Traffic signals will be placed at each end of the bridge to alternate between letting the northbound lane and southbound cross, just like what is being done on U.S. 231 between Huntingburg and Jasper.

People can submit questions and comments about the project to Wright at INDOT’s Office of Public Involvement, 100 N. Senate Ave., IGCN 642, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Comments can also be faxed to (317)233-4929 or emailed to mwright@indot.in.gov.

The comment period will close Sept. 7.




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