Cline Avenue bridge to close permanently

December 28, 2009 (CHICAGO) The Indiana Department of Transportation announced today that the Cline Avenue bridge will not be repaired or re-built, and that has drivers and businesses concerned.

A four-mile section of the Cline Avenue bridge that goes from Calumet Avenue in Hammond to Michigan Avenue in East Chicago was closed last month because of significant corrosion.

The closure was expected to be temporary, but Monday the Indiana Department of Transportation said in part, "The structural integrity of the bridge is in such a diminished state that any combination of repair or reconstruction...would cost in the tens of millions of dollars and offer a lifespan that would be a fraction of that justified by the investment."

The news comes as a big disappointment to people who use the bridge nearly every day.

"We have to go all the way around, instead of going straight. It's very inconvenient," one driver said.

Thirty thousand vehicles use the bridge on a daily basis, and the problem isn't just for commuters. The steel mills, oil refineries and casinos in northwest Indiana are the most seriously affected by the bridge closure.

At the Majestic Star Casino business is already down.

"Our business is down 15 percent. And it doesn't just hurt the businesses, but state and local governments who benefit from taxes that we pay and it hurts employees who work for tips," said Larry Beck, Majestic Star Casino.

"I'll probably come less. The long way is making it inconvenient for me, so I'm not going to come as much as I usually would," Jeanettee Williams said.

Now that the decision has been made to permanently close the bridge, INDOT says it has two priorities. One is to do everything they can to diminish the inconvenience to the motoring public, and the second is to act as quickly as possible to find viable options for replacing the bridge.

"My understanding is that with the volume that we've seen in the past, the bridge could be replaced with a smaller structure that still satisfies the casinos and the steel mills," Beck said.

That option is a long-term solution. For now, the current detour and ramp accesses will remain in place.

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