Locals concerned about Cline Ave. bridge closure

December 30, 2009 4:39:08 AM PST
Several mayors in northwest Indiana are discussing solutions following the closing of the Cline Avenue bridge. Department of transportation officials said this week a four-mile stretch of that bridge shut down last month because of safety concerns will remain closed permanently.

"It is not safe and would be too costly to repair," said Angie Fegaras, Indiana Dept. of Transportation. "It cannot be replaced in the current shape and form, and what we're going to do is the elevated section, which is about a mile and a quarter long, and demo that and talk about how to do that over the next couple of months. ...It is not going to be rebuilt in the current shape and form, but we will do something."

The bridge has had problems from its beginning. In 1982 when it was being built, it collapsed and 14 workers died in the construction accident.

"This has nothing to do with that construction. It is the type of design and the elements we get in northwest Indiana have been hard on the bridge," Fegaras said.

The 30,000 cars that travel it daily will have to find alternate routes. People who use the bridge daily to go to work and for shopping are disappointed in the news.

"They can take U.S. 12 Columbus Drive over to Indianapolis Boulevard and Calumet Avenue," Fegaras said.

"You have to go all the way around to Riley Road and there are a lot of trucks and stuff coming that way. It's just going really out of the way," Kim Housing said.

Mayors from East Chicago are meeting to discuss recommendations to the Indiana Department of Transportation. While the city fully understands the importance of structural integrity of the bridge, they have major concerns about the decision to permanently close the Cline Avenue bridge.

"We have major concerns about how to man the Cline Avenue closure, and it will have a strain on the local resources and local roads," said Damian Rico, East Chicago spokesman.

"Business is down about 15 percent, and it hurts not only the business but the state and local governments who benefit from the taxes we pay and hurts the employees who were losing their tips," said Larry Beck, Majestic Star Casino.

Businesses on Main Street and Indiana Harbor have already been negatively impacted by the economy, and the closing of the Cline Avenue bridge will only hurt them more. The Indiana Department of Transportation hopes to have a plan by February.


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