- Associated Press - Friday, August 7, 2015

BOWLING GREEN, Ind. (AP) - A bridge over the Eel River in Clay County has to be replaced because heavy use over the past 80 years has caused its structure to deteriorate, according to Indiana transportation officials.

But the two-lane, steel truss bridge outside of the town of Bowling Green is on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge also has been given “select status” by the Indiana Historic Bridge Inventory project, so it can’t be destroyed, state transportation officials said.

The Indiana Department of Transportation held a public hearing Wednesday to discuss options for the bridge, the (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star (https://bit.ly/1W5OPCX ) reported.

Agency officials and engineers hired for the project told those who attended the meeting that substantial work needs to be done on the bridge because it has been experiencing structural deterioration, including damaged sway bracing and rusting in various parts, and hydraulics issues.

Officials currently are considering two alternatives: rehabilitating the bridge for pedestrian use, or relocating it to another site in Brown County.

Both options still would require a new bridge to be built over the Eel River. The agency also would have to acquire agriculture land, forest and wetlands from the surrounding areas for either alternative.

About 85 residents attended the meeting on Wednesday, and many of them said they wanted the bridge to stay in Clay County.

Nancy Lankford, a lifelong Bowling Green resident, said she would “hate” to see something so significant to the county’s history disappear from the area. Her grandfather even helped build Indiana 46, which spans the bridge, she said.

“There has been six generations of us that have gone over that bridge and recognize that as, ‘Gee, I’m home. This is where I live,’” she said.

“That bridge talks to us,” Lankford said. “It tells us about our lives.”

A local group, the Clay Community Parks Association, also is advocating to keep the bridge and has offered to help fund the maintenance of the bridge if county commissioners take possession of it, said the nonprofit’s president, Tom Reberger.

“The bridge is going to be rehabilitated, according to INDOT, whether it stays where it is,” or not, he said at the meeting.

“Why move it? It’s a historic feature,” he added.

The Indiana Department of Transportation plans to consider residents’ opinions voiced at the meeting during the decision-making process.

Public comments on the project will continue to be sought for the next two weeks.


Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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