MUNSTER | Three bridges that connect Hammond and Munster finally will be demolished, rebuilt or renovated starting this year, thanks to interlocal agreements between the two municipalities and other funding agencies.
On Monday, the Munster Town Council approved three resolutions and signed the interlocal agreements for the Northcote Bridge, the Columbia Avenue Bridge and the Monon Bike Trail/Trestle Bridge.
All three bridges affect flood protection measures along the Little Calumet River, Munster Town Engineer James Mandon told the Town Council prior to the unanimous vote to approve the agreements.
Both the Northcote Bridge and the Columbia Avenue Bridge are “significantly below the protection of the levee system. Until these bridges are addressed, the town is vulnerable to flooding,” Mandon said.
The old Monon railroad trestle bridge, that’s now owned by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (the South Shore), has been a pinch point for debris blocking the flow of water in the Little Calumet River.
Mandon said the Northcote Bridge is 4 1/2 feet below that levee protection. The Columbia Avenue Bridge is 4 feet lower than it should be.
If the Little Calumet River started to rise before these bridges are dealt with, “human intervention including sandbagging or putting inflatable bladders would be needed,” he said.
Demolition of the Columbia Avenue Bridge will begin this spring, with a new bridge completed later in the construction season.
This bridge must be finished first because it is becoming structurally unsound, Mandon said.
“The first discussions about the Columbia Avenue Bridge started six months before the flood of 2008,” he told the council.
Costs for replacing this bridge will be split among four funding sources. Lake County will pay for 50 percent of the project with the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission picking up 25 percent. The remaining 25 percent will be split equally between the city of Hammond and the town of Munster.
Lake County Auditor Peggy Holinga Katona will be the controller of the funds for this project, said Clay Johnson, assistant town manager.
Originally Lake County was slated to pick up the entire tab for the Columbia Avenue demolition and construction, according to Mandon.
Munster Town Councilman John Reed thanked Mandon and other staff members for seeing this project through despite economic challenges.
“They have saved us several hundred thousand dollars,” he said.
The Northcote Bridge will be renovated to provide 200-year flood protection and will be started at the end of the 2013 construction season after Columbia Avenue is completed, Mandon said. Work is expected to be completed in early 2014.
“Northcote is structurally sound. We can’t have both Columbia Avenue and Northcote out at the same time,” he said.
The construction costs for the Northcote Bridge will be split 50-50 between Hammond and Munster, according to the interlocal agreement, and the Hammond City Controller Robert Lendi will receive, disburse and account for monies spent on this project, Johnson said.
The Monon Bike Trail/Trestle Bridge project will take two construction seasons to complete, and costs will be equally shared between Hammond and Munster, Mandon said.
The bike trail would extend through Munster and Hammond and cross the Little Calumet River over a new pedestrian/bike bridge that will replace the old railroad trestle bridge.
The LCRBDC will fund the costs for the approaches to the new pedestrian bridge. Lendi will be responsible for the funds for this project.
“These resolutions are the result of years of work and demonstrate great cooperation between all the entities involved,” Johnson said.