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.

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