County pursues bridge repairs

Two of the county’s heavily-traveled rural bridges may have to be closed for an undetermined amount of time next year.

DLZ Indiana, an engineering and design firm, has been awarded a $211,500 contract by the Bartholomew County Commissioners. The company will design new concrete overlays on the decks of the two bridges.

  • Bridge 113, located along County Road 800S, one mile east of State Road 11. The 434-foot long structure, which is part of three bridges built in succession, is also known as Azalia Bridge.
  • Bridge 111 on South Gladstone Avenue, which curves as it crosses Clifty Creek immediately south of the Columbus city limits.

The contract amount approved Monday includes about $12,000 for supplemental services, which Bartholomew County Highway Engineer Danny Hollander says he does not anticipate spending. That money will be funds held in reserve in cast state environmental officials order the county to get a waterway permit, Hollander said.

“Now, we’re going to be on the deck and not anywhere near the waterway,” the highway engineer said. “But it’s in there just in case (a state-ordered permit) comes up.”

The 50-year-old Azalia Bridge, which carries about 1,790 vehicles a day, underwent emergency repairs in 2016 after DLZ engineers concluded the river below was shifting 10 to 12 feet annually. Large chucks of limestone, each as big as the bed of a pickup truck, were strategically placed in the riverbed to control the water flow.

Bartholomew County Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said this new road projects present a different type of damage.

“Water does so much subsurface damage that doesn’t show up for years,” Kleinhenz said. “Whether it’s the ground settling or sand particles being pushed out, it just creates problems.”

Meanwhile, county officials say repairs on the bridge south of Columbus on Gladstone Avenue will be costly and time-consuming because it is one of just a handful of local bridges that has a curve in it, he said.

Hollander anticipates bidding on the two projects will take place late this winter, following by the start of construction during the summer.

Meanwhile, a meeting between state and local officials on a project along East 25th Street is scheduled for the end of next week.

In a separate matter, Hollander says he’s scheduled to meeting with a representative of the Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) on Friday, Dec. 2. The subject will be exploring ways of improving safety at the intersection of East 25th Street and County Road 500E in Petersville.

From 2002 until 2019, statistics from the Indiana State Police identified that intersection as one of Bartholomew County’s “hot spots” for serious or fatal accidents.

County officials were hopeful that when they put up solar-powered flashing red stop lights on both sides of County Road 500E in 2019, it would make the intersection safer.

He said the commissioners are hopeful the LTAP representative can find new ways of making that intersection safer.

LTAP officials are like an extension service for street and highway departments, Commissioner Carl Lienhoop said. They help local street and highway departments by acting as a resource for training, technical assistance and technology transfer.