The historic Newbern Bridge is on the move.

Three cranes lifted the 104-year-old iron-truss structure from its foundations on both sides of Clifty Creek on Wednesday before it was placed on the ground near the Newbern United Methodist Church.

Starting in mid-March, the historic bridge will be carefully taken apart, with each piece tagged, before it is transported on flatbed trucks eight miles west to Lincoln Park in Columbus, said project manager D. Eric Brunn, with the Columbus-based engineering consulting firm Strand Associates.

Eventually, the camel-back structure will be reassembled before becoming part of the People Trails system, spanning Haw Creek about two blocks south of Eastbrook Plaza, Brunn said.

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While he was expecting some pieces to fall off the bridge Wednesday, Brunn said he was pleasantly surprised at how easily the structure seemed to relinquish its long-standing place over Clifty Creek.

“It was very solid coming off there,” he said.

Amy Roberts, job superintendent for Force Construction, said months of extensive preparation kept complications to a minimum.

For example, lengthy meetings were conducted both Tuesday and Wednesday to eliminate miscommunication and reduce the odds of anything going wrong, Roberts said.

Days also were spent constructing a temporary causeway, as well as an access road through wetlands, that allowed one crane to lift the center of the bridge, she said.

“Once we got the legs out from under the abutment, it only took us about 10 minutes to first lift the structure up on the north side and then pick up the south side,” Roberts said. “Then it only took about 15 minutes to move it to the south side and lay it down.”

While Brunn said he had never witnessed such a delicate bridge removal, Force Construction had the benefit of experience gained from an almost identical operation, Roberts said.

Her company took down a 1912 bridge near Portersville in Dubois County in October 2008. Two years later, the structure was moved 98 miles to the Charlestown State Park as a pedestrian bridge.

Now that the one-lane Newbern Bridge, which carried up to 800 vehicles daily before it closed in November, is out of the way, the project now shifts to constructing its replacement on County Road 850E, Roberts said.

“Hopefully, we can get going on the new bridge within a month,” she said. “But you just don’t know. Spring flooding could cause some issues for us.”

The opening for the new bridge, which will end long detours for residents of a mobile home park and several other homes, is scheduled for Sept. 15.

The project includes the reconfiguration of the current 45-degree turn near the church into a T-intersection, with a stop sign installed for southbound traffic on County Road 850E, Bartholomew County Highway Engineer Danny Hollander said.

It will likely be mid-spring before the old bridge is ready to be moved to a fenced-in area of Lincoln Park, Roberts said.

For the next several months, every piece at deck level or below will be replaced, while the iron frame is rehabilitated and painted, Brunn said.

The best estimate regarding the pedestrian bridge is seeking bids for construction in late summer of 2016, followed by the start of construction in the fall, with completion the following year, Hollander said.

In addition to the historic bridge, limestone rock masonry from the Newbern site also will be moved to Columbus to secure the structure to the banks of Haw Creek, Roberts said.

Federal dollars are financing 80 percent of the $1.43 million project, using money designated for historic bridge preservation.

Bridge move timeline

1999: Bartholomew County Commissioners vote to replace the aging bridge over Clifty Creek along County Road 850N and $960,000 in federal funding is acquired for the project.

2001: Archaeologists uncover more than 350 artifacts under Clifty Creek at the site. Replacement is delayed.

2004: A $584,000 state grant to refurbish the existing bridge is announced.

2005: Amount set aside for construction of a new bridge rises to $1.25 million.

2007: County considers moving the old bridge to Anderson Falls after the new structure is built. The idea is later dropped.

2010: Proposal emerges that the old bridge could be used as part of the Columbus People Trails system, spanning Haw Creek south of 25th Street.

2012: The state announces it would pull the 2004 grant for the reconstruction project over Haw Creek. But due to extensive local lobbying, the funding is reinstated 14 months later.

March 2013: County announces a $1.6 million federal grant has been acquired that will cover the total cost of the bridge replacement.

July 2013: As the result of a formal bridge inspection, the 12-ton weight limit is lowered to 3 tons. Frequent reports begin to surface of large vehicles ignoring the weight limit.

January 2014: New deterioration, including a middle support beam that dropped 18 inches from under the deck, is discovered. But engineers see no immediate danger of vehicles falling through the deck.

November 2014: The bridge is closed to traffic.

February 2015: The bridge is lifted and set aside in preparation for move to Columbus.

Mid-spring 2015: Bridge will be moved to Lincoln Park in Columbus.

Fall 2016: Construction begins to establish the Newbern Bridge as a pedestrian bridge that becomes part of the Columbus People Trails system.

2017: Bridge project over Haw Creek forecast to be completed.

Five historic bridges

The Newbern Bridge is one of five in Bartholomew County designated as select historic bridges that can’t be legally torn down by city or county governments. The others can be found at the following locations.

  • County Road 400N, between U.S. 31 and River Road
  • County Road 900N over the Flatrock River, northwest of St. Louis Crossing
  • County Road 410N, just west of Hartsville.
  • Stafford Road over Haw Creek, northeast of Hope
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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.