[R76] Part 1. New Harmony Bridge Town hall discussion (7/17/2012)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Start Date: 7/17/2012 All Day
End Date: 7/17/2012
Part 1. New Harmony Bridge Town hall discussion
Input from federal, state and local participants critical to funding new bridge

On Saturday, July 7, I held a town hall to give an update on the New Harmony Bridge situation and to discuss what options were on the table. I want to thank everyone who attended and for your questions and input.

The town hall followed a meeting I had on July 5, with elected representatives from Indiana, Illinois, Posey County, White County and the federal government. We met to discuss what can be done to reopen or build a new bridge.

At the meeting, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announced their offer to contribute $10 million towards a new bridge after months of meetings between myself and the department.

For those who were unable to attend the town hall meeting, I wanted to share the discussion that took place and what options exist so that our community can make an informed decision about how to proceed.

Is the current New Harmony Bridge salvageable?
Based on the most recent engineering report, the answer is no. The April 2012 report stated that the bridge currently cannot sustain its own weight, much less vehicular traffic due to years of use. For a full copy of the engineering report, please visit my website at: www.in.gov/h76 .

The current bridge is too narrow and the pitch of the bridge does not meet federal standards. Our community needs a long-term solution for economic development and transportation purposes. Rehabbing the current bridge is a short-term Band-Aid that will cost significant money with no guarantee that we won’t be back here in five or ten years. For all of these reasons, I am convinced that salvaging the current bridge is not the best stewardship of your taxpayer dollars.

If a new bridge is built, how much would it cost?
Building a new bridge to meet federal safety and transportation standards would cost approximately $20-25 million. That does not include any of the costs associated with environmental studies, engineering and consultants fees and possible land acquisition costs.

Where would the funding come from for a new bridge?
The funding could come from a multitude of sources but five main stakeholders are involved. As a State Representative, I have worked to get the Indiana Department of Transportation involved and they have agreed to put $10 million toward the cost of building a new bridge. The other stakeholders are the State of Illinois, White County in Illinois, Posey County and the federal government. Once I have an update from my counterpart, State Representative David Reis of White County, about what Illinois is prepared to offer, if anything, I will pass that information along.

Since the bridge is currently privately owned by the White County Bridge Commission, it is not eligible for any federal funds. However, if a new bridge is built it will be eligible for federal funds as long as it is owned and operated by a public entity--for example, one or both counties. Obtaining federal funding is key in getting a new bridge built.

I will continue to detail questions asked during the town hall in next week’s column. Stay tuned…