County sizes up state of bridges

Hope structures lead list of those needing replaced

Three of the five Bartholomew County bridges in most need of replacement are located northeast of Hope in Hawcreek Township.

That’s according to an inventory and inspection report of all 203 county-owned bridges by Indianapolis-based United Consulting, which it has submitted to the Bartholomew County Commissioners.

The three Hawcreek Township bridges needing replacement were identified as:

Bridge 50, County Road 850N over Duck Creek

Bridge 57, East Stafford Road over Little Haw Creek

Bridge 56, County Road 900N over Haw Creek

However, no bridge currently being used has deteriorated to the point where there is an imminent public danger, the report said. All structures are in compliance with state and federal regulations, it said.

Nevertheless, the Indianapolis firm has been working with county highway engineer Danny Hollander to make priorities for a repair and rehabilitation schedule, United Consulting engineer Dave Richter told the commissioners last week.

“We try to repair at least two a year,” Hollander said. “But we’ve got a couple of big ones in the works now.”

The two most expensive bridge projects on the county’s radar both cross the Driftwood River northwest of Columbus.

They are Bridge 149 on Tannehill Road and Bridge 170 on Lowell Road.

While a regular bridge replacement costs about $600,000, both the Tannehill and Lowell bridges are so large that it may take millions of dollars to fix the structures, which are both more than 50 years old, commissioner Carl Lienhoop said.

Although the county is seeking federal assistance to pay 80 percent of the costs to repair those two bridges, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz still expressed reservations.

“To get that aid, you have to meet federal standards that sometimes double the cost,” Kleinhenz said.

When comparing the condition of local rural bridges to those in the other 91 Indiana counties, United Consulting engineer Matt Lee said Bartholomew County is doing much better than average.

For example, the other counties have an average of 8.2 percent of their bridges deteriorated to the point when they qualify for federal funds to replace them. In comparison, Bartholomew County has 5.4 percent rated that low, Lee said.

In other counties, an average of 11.1 percent of rural bridges have posted weight limits, compared to 4.4 percent in Bartholomew, Lee said.

Those findings are in light of the fact that Bartholomew County has 60 more bridges to maintain than the average Indiana county, Richter said.

“You’ve got good people in your highway department that know what’s going on, and are reacting accordingly,” Richter told the commissioners.

But with the Bartholomew County Council expected to begin considering large budget cuts in less than a month, Lienhoop seemed to want to tone down the praise.

Lienhoop pointed out the county usually receives about $1.4 million annually through a cumulative bridge fund to maintain what he estimated as $100 million worth of bridges.

“Those two figures don’t jive very good,” Lienhoop said. “We can’t let our guard down for years at a time.”

Bridge reports are used by the commissioners to analyze upcoming expensive bridge projects, as well as to plan future replacement, Kleinhenz said.

Replacement and rehabilitation list

Top five bridges on replacement list:

Bridge 50, County Road 850N over Duck Creek in northeast Hawcreek Township

Bridge 57, County Road 945N (East Stafford Road) over Little Haw Creek in northeast Hawcreek Township

Bridge 249, County Road 400W over Denios Creek at the Columbus Township-Harrison Township line.

Bridge 56, County Road 900N over Haw Creek in north central Hawcreek Township

Bridge 189, County Road 400W over East Fork White Creek in northwest Wayne Township at the Brown County line.

Top five bridges on rehabilitation list:

Bridge 39, County Road 300N over Fall Fork Clifty Creek in northeast Clifty Township

Bridge 111, County Road 115E (South Gladstone Avenue) over Clifty Creek in southern Columbus Township.

Bridge 73, County Road 900N over Flatrock River at the German Township-Flat Rock Township line.

Bridge 116, County Road 600S over Sand Branch in Sandcreek Township southwest of Elizabethtown.

Bridge 317, East 25th Street over Clifty Creek, about a mile east of Petersville.

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