Engineering firm hired to plan, reassemble 105-year-old bridge on People Trails

Final steps are being taken toward placing an historic rural bridge into the People Trails system in Columbus next year.

A contract to hire a Columbus-based engineering consulting firm to plan and supervise reassembly of the 105-year-old former Newbern Bridge over Haw Creek has been approved by the Bartholomew County commissioners.

While the city and county are each paying $21,500 for their share of the contract with Strand Associates, the total engineering cost for restoring the bridge a few blocks south of 25th Street will be $216,000, Bartholomew County Highway engineer Danny Hollander said.

“That’s a lot of money to put into that old bridge,” commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said Monday. “But once it’s done, it will be a really nice asset.”

Eighty percent of the engineering cost, or $172,800, will be reimbursed by the federal government, Hollander said.

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, Hollander said.

While $744,000 had been set aside for the entire project, as well as related trail upgrades, that amount became insufficient earlier this year due to both inflation and new flood-plain regulations requiring the structure to be erected at a higher elevation, Hollander said.

In response, approval was given in August to allocate an additional $93,112 from federal highway funds maintained by the 12-year-old Columbus Area Metropolitan Planning Organization for the relocation and renovations.

The contract is expected to allow Strand engineer and historic bridge consultant D. Eric Brunn to complete a project he began in 1999, when the commissioners first voted to replace the aging bridge after acquiring $960,000 in federal funding.

But it wasn’t until late February 2015 that the structure was lifted from its foundations over Clifty Creek near the Newbern United Methodist Church – and later moved to Lincoln Park in Columbus for storage.

Factors ranging from unexpected archeological discoveries to state funding snags were responsible for many of the delays.

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