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East Chicago Casino Offers to Help Rebuild Indiana Bridge

Fri April 15, 2011 - Midwest Edition
CEG



EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (AP) An East Chicago casino is offering more than $10 million to help pay the cost to rebuild a northwestern Indiana bridge that state officials have said they don’t plan to replace.

Troy Stremming, an Ameristar senior vice president, told the Post-Tribune and The Times of Munster that the casino is in preliminary talks with the state Transportation Department. The state previously has said it did not plan to rebuild the Cline Avenue bridge, a key link to lakefront casinos and steel mills, because the $150 million price tag was too steep. It said a plan to reroute traffic would cost $70 million.

“What has changed is we offered to step up and write a check,” Stremming told the Post-Tribune.

The closing of the bridge has impacted the casino, which reported third-quarter revenue fell 8 percent, or $4.6 million.

The state Department of Transportation has been in talks with Ameristar about the new bridge for about two months, agency chief of staff Bob Zier told The Times. He said INDOT now is waiting to see if Ameristar can round up the support of the local community and interest groups.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland told The Times that Ameristar’s proposal “would be a win-win solution for everyone.”

Construction unions have been pushing to rebuild the bridge, saying it would provide much-needed work.

“We were looking for someone with a pot of gold, and we found them,” Randy Palmateer, business manager of the Northwest Indiana Building and Trade Council, told The Times.

INDOT closed the bridge in December 2009 after an inspection showed it had become dangerously weak. Stremming told the newspapers that the cost of the project could be lowered by reducing the bridge to just two lanes in each direction and using existing bridge supports.

INDOT already has submitted its plan for the permanent detour to the Federal Highway Administration for approval. Any proposal for a new bridge also would have to be submitted.

Stremming told the Post-Tribune that Ameristar wants the bridge built by the end of 2013.