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Column: Newbern span to get new life on People Trail

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THE Newbern Bridge has outlived the role it has played during the past 102 years as a crossing over Clifty Creek for vehicles on Road 850N.

Its scheduled replacement in 2013 is long overdue. Its laminated timber deck is in poor condition, and its steel truss structure is rusting.

In years past the materials from such a removal would have been consigned to the landfill or dispatched to Kroot’s salvage yards.

Fortunately, it has been slated for recycling, one of the biggest green projects to be undertaken in Bartholomew County.

If all goes as planned, the aging structure will be moved from its present location and taken to an area just off 25th Street and east of Lincoln Park, where it might become a vital link in an expansion of the People Trail.

This project can be an important element in the overall People Trail experience, providing bikers and pedestrians with an efficient and attractive crossing of Haw Creek.

It can even have a positive effect on the area’s economic development and tourism programs. If work is completed on time, it should be available for the second annual Cummins Marathon in 2014.

The replacement of the bridge has been more than a dozen years in the making. County officials recognized the need to replace it in the last years of the 20th century. Money for the replacement (80 percent will come from federal funding) has never been a stumbling block, but issues such as the discovery of historical artifacts at the site and the detailed paperwork required because of the span’s age contributed to the length of the process.

This is not the first steel truss bridge that was envisioned as part of the People Trail project. In the early 1990s when planning for the renovation and expansion of Mill Race Park was under way, another historic steel bridge in the county became available.

Ownership of the bridge was transferred to the Parks and Recreation Department in the hopes that it could be used as a crossing in the park expansion, but its dimensions were such that those plans had to be scrapped.

Instead it was placed on display in an empty field near the park’s playground area until it had to be removed during the construction of Mill Race Center.

Planners are hopeful that the “new” old bridge will be more compatible with its settings.

If things work out, the Newbern Bridge will be able to expand its already considerable life span and in the process add to the quality of life in Bartholomew County.

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