- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) - The historic Newbern Bridge is on the move.

Three cranes lifted the 104-year-old iron-truss structure from its foundations on both sides of Clifty Creek on Wednesday before it was placed on the ground near the Newbern United Methodist Church.

Starting in mid-March, the historic bridge will be carefully taken apart, with each piece tagged, before it is transported on flatbed trucks eight miles west to Lincoln Park in Columbus, said project manager D. Eric Brunn, with the Columbus-based engineering consulting firm Strand Associates.

Eventually, the camel-back structure will be reassembled before becoming part of the People Trails system, spanning Haw Creek about two blocks south of Eastbrook Plaza, Brunn told The Republic (https://bit.ly/18JEjxa ).

While he was expecting some pieces to fall off the bridge Wednesday, Brunn said he was pleasantly surprised at how easily the structure seemed to relinquish its long-standing place over Clifty Creek.

“It was very solid coming off there,” he said.

Amy Roberts, job superintendent for Force Construction, said months of extensive preparation kept complications to a minimum.

For example, lengthy meetings were conducted both Tuesday and Wednesday to eliminate miscommunication and reduce the odds of anything going wrong, Roberts said.

Days also were spent constructing a temporary causeway, as well as an access road through wetlands, that allowed one crane to lift the center of the bridge, she said.

“Once we got the legs out from under the abutment, it only took us about 10 minutes to first lift the structure up on the north side and then pick up the south side,” Roberts said. “Then it only took about 15 minutes to move it to the south side and lay it down.”

While Brunn said he had never witnessed such a delicate bridge removal, Force Construction had the benefit of experience gained from an almost identical operation, Roberts said.

Her company took down a 1912 bridge near Portersville in Dubois County in October 2008. Two years later, the structure was moved 98 miles to the Charlestown State Park as a pedestrian bridge.

Now that the one-lane Newbern Bridge, which carried up to 800 vehicles daily before it closed in November, is out of the way, the project now shifts to constructing its replacement on County Road 850E, Roberts said.

“Hopefully, we can get going on the new bridge within a month,” she said. “But you just don’t know. Spring flooding could cause some issues for us.”

The opening for the new bridge, which will end long detours for residents of a mobile home park and several other homes, is scheduled for Sept. 15.

The project includes the reconfiguration of the current 45-degree turn near the church into a T-intersection, with a stop sign installed for southbound traffic on County Road 850E, Bartholomew County Highway Engineer Danny Hollander said.

It will likely be mid-spring before the old bridge is ready to be moved to a fenced-in area of Lincoln Park, Roberts said.

For the next several months, every piece at deck level or below will be replaced, while the iron frame is rehabilitated and painted, Brunn said.

The best estimate regarding the pedestrian bridge is seeking bids for construction in late summer of 2016, followed by the start of construction in the fall, with completion the following year, Hollander said.

In addition to the historic bridge, limestone rock masonry from the Newbern site also will be moved to Columbus to secure the structure to the banks of Haw Creek, Roberts said.

Federal dollars are financing 80 percent of the $1.43 million project, using money designated for historic bridge preservation.

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Information from: The Republic, https://www.therepublic.com/

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