Plans are once again moving ahead to incorporate a historic rural bridge into the People Trails system in Columbus.

Approval was given Monday to allocate an additional $93,112 to restore the 105-year-old former Newbern Bridge over Haw Creek a few blocks south of 25th Street as part of a short extension to the trails system.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, construction bids are expected to be awarded in February or March, with actual work on the pedestrian/bicyclist crossing likely to get underway in April or May, Bartholomew County Highway engineer Danny Hollander said.

The approved financial agreement, which utilizes federal highway funds maintained by the 12-year-old Columbus Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, is between the Bartholomew County Commissioners and the Indiana Department of Transportation, Hollander said.

Eighty percent of all costs will be paid by federal funds administered by the state, while 20 percent will come from local funds.

While $744,000 already has been set aside for the pedestrian bridge, that amount became insufficient due to both inflation and new flood-plain regulations requiring the structure to be erected at a higher elevation, Hollander said.

It’s already been more than a year-and-a-half since the iron-truss structure has served a useful purpose. In late February 2015, three cranes lifted the historic bridge from its foundations on both sides of Clifty Creek near the Newbern United Methodist Church. The replacement bridge along County Road 850E was completed early last fall.

As work was being done on the new bridge, the historic camel-back structure was carefully taken apart, with each piece tagged, before being transported on flatbed trucks eight miles west to Lincoln Park in Columbus. Since its arrival, the pieces have been stored behind special fencing.

While a $584,000 grant of federal funds to refurbish the historic bridge was first announced in 2004, the project remained in a state of limbo for several years as officials tried to find a new home for the structure.

In 2012, the state announced it would pull the grant due to inaction. But as the result of extensive local lobbying, the funding is reinstated 14 months later.

Delays haven’t always been related to finances. Two years after the county first voted to replace the aging bridge, more than 350 artifacts were discovered at the site in 2001.

Work was brought to a stop for a lengthy period of time until archeologists determined the area was not as historically significant as originally thought.

Over time, other delays were caused for a variety of reasons such as bid rejections and unexpected cost overruns.

What's next?

Although proposals for project oversight of the Newbern Bridge restoration were received July 29, a contract has not yet been awarded. While the oversight contract likely will be awarded soon, reconstruction of the bridge over Haw Creek, south of 25th Street, will not begin late this year as originally planned. Here is the revised 2017 schedule.

February-March: Awarding of construction bid

April-May: Reconstruction begins.

A completion date will be announced after the restoration contract is awarded early next year.

Source: Bartholomew County Highway Department

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.