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Indiana Offers $10M Toward New Wabash River Bridge

Fri July 20, 2012 - Midwest Edition
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NEW HARMONY, Ind. (AP) Indiana’s state highway department has offered to contribute $10 million toward replacing an aging toll bridge over the southern part of the Wabash River between Indiana and Illinois that was shut down in May.

Troy Woodruff, chief of staff of the Indiana Department of Transportation, said that is about half what the agency estimates it will cost to build a new span to replace the 82-year-old New Harmony Bridge, but the state doesn’t want responsibility for operating and maintaining it.

“We’re willing to put some skin in the game to get the discussion started,” Woodruff told the Evansville Courier & Press. “Part of that is the local community will have to take ownership of a new bridge.”

The private commission that oversees the bridge voted to close it after an inspection found more deterioration than expected and repair cost estimates were too high. The bridge had faced closure for several years, with the commission unable to raise the estimated $8 million needed for repairs because the span averaged fewer than 1,000 vehicles a day.

Woodruff said the Indiana agency supported building a new bridge — estimated to cost between $20 million and $25 million — because of the current bridge’s poor condition.

State Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon, said decisions on the bridge’s future will be made after a community meeting about the situation.

“Probably the biggest thing is there are a lot of people willing to step up and help this community, and help bring resolution to the bridge,” McNamara said.

Since closure of the span about 25 mi. west of Evansville, drivers wanting to cross the Wabash River have had to use the Interstate 64 bridge about 10 mi. to the north or the Indiana 62 bridge about 15 mi. south near Mount Vernon. The Indiana Landmarks preservation group this year included the New Harmony Bridge on its list of the state’s 10 most-endangered historic sites.

Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, whose district includes New Harmony, said he didn’t expect the federal government would pay for construction of a new bridge.

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