GARY | A proposal to build a private toll bridge to replace the condemned Cline Avenue Bridge is getting careful consideration by the state and "the parties are close" to a deal, Gov. Mitch Daniels said.
"If we can get to a final agreement, work can get started pretty soon," the governor said Wednesday just after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for an expanded Indiana Toll Road at the Gary/Chicago International Airport.
American Bridge Partners, formed by the FIGG Group of Tallahassee, Fla., now has the only private proposal on the table for replacing the bridge, Daniels said. A proposal from Winners Development, of Scottsdale, Ariz., has not moved forward.
Daniels confirmed the proposal is for a bridge with open-road tolling like that on the Illinois Tollway. One legal route for getting the job done would involve the city of East Chicago obtaining the right of way for the bridge from the Indiana Department of Transportation and then turning it over to American Bridge Partners.
INDOT has letters of support for "what looks like a practical solution" from East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland, Gary Mayor-elect Karen Freeman-Wilson and a number of state legislators, Daniels said.
INDOT officials also have said their $70 million "ground route" proposal using the Dickey Road drawbridge and Riley Road is still in the running as a final solution for the condemned bridge.
The state now is going through a complex due diligence on the American Bridge Partners proposal, INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said. That due diligence includes all legal, financial and engineering aspects of the project, Wingfield said.
Daniels said one advantage of doing the project as a public-private partnership is that things can happen much more quickly and the project may be under way "pretty soon."
"I'm as impatient almost as the citizens up here, and I'm encouraged every time I come up here by what I hear," Daniels said.
The bridge was condemned by the state in December 2009 after inspections revealed it was gravely weakened due to corrosion of its interior support cables. Before its closure, it carried about 35,000 vehicles per day. It opened to traffic in 1983.
INDOT also announced the contract for demolishing the condemned Cline Avenue Bridge has been awarded to Walsh Construction Co., of Crown Point, which submitted the low bid of $8.93 million two weeks ago.
Two other bids were submitted, one for $18.84 million by Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., of Oak Brook, Ill., and the other a $36.44 million bid by Joseph B. Fay Co., of Tarentum, Pa.