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Mover hired for Newbern Bridge


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Columbus engineering firm Strand Associates will shepherd the 104-year-old Newbern Bridge to its new location as part of the People Trails.

The Bartholomew County Commissioners approved a $100,500 contract for Strand to handle the bridge’s move to its new home.

The one-lane bridge on County Road 850E carries more than 800 vehicles a day, providing access to a mobile home park and several residences along Huffer and Newbern roads, as well as County Road 265N.

Since closing the bridge over Clifty Creek would require nearby residents to drive several miles out of their way, the current structure will stay until the new one is built next to it, county highway engineer Danny Hollander said.

Once the new bridge is completed, the one-lane, iron-truss bridge will be moved to the People Trail to provide a crossing over Haw Creek for bicyclists and pedestrians under 25th Street, just east of Lincoln Park.

It will be Strand’s responsibility to examine every part of the old bridge and make sure that all nonsalvageable parts are properly replaced, project engineer Marc Rape said.

The contract also calls for designing new bridge abutments and maintaining records that meet state and federal requirements to ensure the bridge is reassembled in its original form, Rape said.

Bids for a contract to construct the new bridge are scheduled to be opened in September.

Cold weather could delay construction until the spring, Hollander said.

While the county long ago had funding for the project, several obstacles delayed the bridge replacement for years.

The first came in 2001, when archaeologists uncovered more than 350 artifacts at the site.

More than $100,000 in local tax money was spent to excavate the area, remove the artifacts and to document them.

But if local tax money had not been spent, the county would have risked losing the federal funds to build a new bridge, as well as receiving a $584,000 state grant to refurbish the existing one.

The bridge’s age presented the next obstacle.

Hollander said extensive paperwork had to be filed because of the structure’s historic status. In addition, thousands of dollars were spent on a redesign and soil tests in order to keep the federal and state grants.

Another delay emerged in 2012, when the courts intervened to establish who owned five parcels of land the county needed for right-of-way, Hollander said.

Believing the project wasn’t moving forward, the Indiana Department of Transportation pulled funding for the relocation of the current bridge. However, the grant was restored in January after extensive lobbying by city and county leaders.

While relocating the structure to Columbus will be complex, it will be up to the contractor to determine whether to move it as three large pieces or break it down into smaller chunks, Rape said.

Although the bridge likely will be moved next summer, it may have to be stored until separate funding is obtained to extend the People Trails, Rape said.

The entire project will cost about $1.42 million, with 80 percent paid by the grant and 20 percent through local funds, including money raised in 2011 by the Columbus Park Foundation for the development of the People Trails.

During Monday’s meeting, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz expressed concern that while the older structure will only be carrying bicyclists and pedestrians, it will still require maintenance work every 20 years.

These types of structures that have all but disappeared were a common part of the Indiana landscape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Rape said.

“These bridges are a dying species, and some have historic qualities that make them extremely rare,” Rape said. “We are preserving a piece of our own history.”

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