Cline Avenue Bridge views remain mixed

2014-02-19T18:15:00Z 2014-02-20T11:35:33Z Cline Avenue Bridge views remain mixedBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

A hearing on the proposed Cline Avenue Bridge on Wednesday within 1 mile of the demolished structure showed the same divisions remain when it comes to its planned replacement.

Ricky Novales, 50, a longtime Indiana Harbor resident, looked at renderings of the proposed bridge and said it could be good for East Chicago, even with tolls as planned.

"I think it's good the way they are constructing this," he said. "I've never seen a bridge look this good. I think city residents will use it and won't mind the toll."

Carlyle Edwards, 57, another East Chicago resident, took a look at the renderings as well and said it's no mystery why the state washed its hands of the condemned bridge.

"Politics," he said. "Just look at who controls the Legislature."

Edwards questioned how it still can be considered a state route, designated as Ind. 912, now that the right of way has been turned over to a private investment group that wants to build a toll bridge in its place.

Local officials remain hopeful the private investment group that owns the former right of way over the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal will begin construction of a new bridge this year.

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission put on Wednesday's hearing at the East Chicago Public Library on Columbus Avenue. NIRPC is taking public comment on including the bridge project in both its short- and long-term transportation plans.

Comment also was taken on a project to add one lane in each direction to Interstate 65 from U.S. 231 to Ind. 2. NIRPC will vote on adding both the I-65 and Cline Avenue Bridge projects to its plans, probably at its April meeting.

The Cline Avenue Bridge was condemned in December 2009 when it was confirmed interior support cables had rusted out, gravely weakening the bridge. Demolition was completed in January 2013.

In September 2012, an investor group led by the Figg Group, of Tallahassee, Fla., struck agreements with East Chicago and Indiana to build a new bridge at the location.

The Figg Group did not respond to an email this week asking if the money has been raised to build the bridge and when construction will start. The bridge has an estimated $150 million price tag, all of which must be raised from private investors.

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