Despite state assurances, Cline Bridge not down yet

2012-12-31T19:00:00Z 2013-01-01T19:34:04Z Despite state assurances, Cline Bridge not down yetBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

EAST CHICAGO | A large chunk of the Cline Avenue Bridge continues to stand over the west side of the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal, despite earlier assurances from state officials the entire bridge would be down by the end of 2012.

It was just over three years ago that the 1.2-mile span was condemned, after being closed on an emergency basis in November 2009 when parts of it were found to be gravely weakened.

In addition to the community's desire to see the demolition finished, completion also is required before the state can turn over the bridge right-of-way to a private company that wants to build a toll bridge there.

The last span of the Cline Avenue Bridge is now scheduled to be demolished on Jan. 5, if weather permits, according to Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield. Work will then begin on cleaning up and restoring the demolition zone.

Demolition workers encountered unanticipated issues, including high winds, which will require an adjustment of the contract completion date, Wingfield said. A final date has not been set.

Under an August agreement between INDOT and United Bridge Partners, of Tallahassee, Fla., the land swap that will give the company possession of the bridge right-of-way is contingent on completion of the demolition by Dec. 31, 2012.

Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission Executive Director John Swanson said he understands preparations for the building of the private toll bridge continue and he could not say if the delay in getting the bridge down would affect those.

"I think it was more of a goal than a deadline," he said.

Walsh Construction, of Crown Point, won the $8.9 million contract to demolish the bridge. Work on bringing it down has been in full swing through the spring and summer months.

Residents of some nearby neighborhoods have complained of the noise of hydraulic jackhammers and explosives used to demolish the bridge.

The Cline Avenue Bridge has had a troubled history, with 14 construction workers killed during a collapse as the bridge was being built. It opened to traffic in 1983.

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