The private investment group that owns the former Cline Avenue Bridge right-of-way anticipates beginning construction of a new toll bridge this year, according to a top area planner.
NIRPC Transportation Projects Manager Gary Evers told an audience at the Merrillville Town Hall on Tuesday the company for the investment group says it wants work underway this year, but did not say when.
"This project is a very unique one in Indiana," Evers said of the private bridge that will replace the former state bridge over the Indiana Harbor in East Chicago.
The bridge has an estimated $150 million price tag.
The Cline Avenue Bridge was condemned in December 2009 when it was confirmed interior support cables had rusted out, gravely weakening the 1.2-mile structure. Its demolition was completed in January 2013.
In September 2012, an investor group led by the Figg Group, of Tallahassee, Fla., agreed with East Chicago and Indiana to build a new bridge at the location.
In October, Figg Group CEO Linda Figg said a new bridge should be under construction sometime in the first half of 2014. 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 public hearing Tuesday at Merrillville Town Hall was conducted to take comment on the bridge project as well as a project to widen Interstate 65 from U.S. 231 to Ind. 2.
That is the stretch of road where the east end Indiana interchange will be built for the Illiana Expressway.
INDOT plans to undertake the I-65 widening as a comprehensive design-build project, where the winning bidder both designs and builds the new lanes.
The project has an estimated $50.9 million price tag.
INDOT is shooting for completion of the I-65 widening project by late 2019.
One lane would be added to the entire 17-mile stretch from U.S. 30 to U.S. 231 in each direction.
NIRPC is taking public comment for both projects -- and the comment period has been extended to March 21.
People can comment by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to NIRPC, 6100 Southport Road, Portage, IN 46368, or they can attend a public hearing Wednesday at 2 p.m. at East Chicago Public Library Main Branch, 2401 Columbus Drive.