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Southwestern Indiana county taking over Wabash River bridge closed by deterioration in 2012

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NEW HARMONY, Indiana — Officials in a southwestern Indiana county are planning to take over an aging Wabash River bridge between Indiana and Illinois that's been closed for more than two years because of unsafe conditions.

The Posey County Commissioners voted Tuesday to accept ownership of the New Harmony Bridge at the prompting of a community group made up of county residents and some from White County, Illinois, who hope to reopen the span about 25 miles north of where the Wabash flows into the Ohio River, the Evansville Courier & Press reported (http://bit.ly/1w8lKwd ).

Jim Alsop, one of the three Posey County commissioners, said it was difficult for him to support the county taking control of the bridge.

"I just think it's a state issue," he said. "But our back was against the wall — it was the end of the line for the White County Bridge Commission, so we decided — OK, let's give it a chance."

The bridge was completed in 1930 and for decades the White County Bridge Commission operated it as a private toll bridge. It was closed in May 2012 after inspections found extensive deterioration, with repairs projected to cost anywhere between $2 million and $8 million to repair.

White County Bridge Commission member Mike Egbert said an underwater inspection of the bridge piers and a review of its support beams were needed to know what repairs are needed.

"Posey County has the ability to seek funds for this type of work — we didn't," Egbert said.

Jim Clark, another member of the bridge commission, said a complete audit of the bridge's finances must be completed before the county will assume ownership.

"We want to go out with a clean record," Clark said.

Members of the Harmony Way Bridge Committee say businesses in both Indiana and Illinois have been hurt by the span's closure. The nearest alternate bridges are on Interstate 64, about 10 miles to the north, and the Indiana 62 bridge, about 15 miles south.

Committee member Linda Henning of Crossville, Illinois, said she was encouraged by the Posey County action.

"The ultimate goal in getting the bridge reopened is to pick up the commerce that was lost when the bridge closed," she said.


Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com

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