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CROWN POINT | One of Lake County's oldest bridges will soon exit the county, but remain over the same river it has spanned for the better part of a century.

The Lake County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday for an agreement to donate Lake County Bridge No. 2 to the Kankakee Valley Historical Society.

Later this year, work crews will disassemble the one-lane, steel truss bridge that has carried traffic on Range Line Road/Clay Street, southeast of Lowell, across the Kankakee since the 1920s to make way for a modern overpass.

They will transport the 169-foot, 60-plus-ton structure some 14 miles upstream to Porter County's Collier Lodge, southwest of Kouts, where it will eventually be reconstructed over a meandering arm of the great river.

"We are putting it across a section of the original Kankakee River. It will be a homecoming of sorts," John Hodson, founder of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, said this week.

"It was one of the top 10 most endangered bridges and now a pretty neat addition to our lodge and a great way to preserve history. One end will be a walkway going up the Baums Bridge Road. The other end of the bridge will be in what was originally Jasper County before they straightened the river," Hodson said.

The Kankakee River is one of Indiana's most extensive water drainage systems, encompassing 3,000 square miles of river basin which includes 13 Northwestern Indiana counties, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website.

The river once sprawled in sinuous curves many miles wide over one of the North America's largest wetlands. This was converted to agriculture when a six-year project straightened the channel between 1911 and 1917.

The bridge was one of the first erected over the new mainstream, Hodson said. It is being retired for a wider, safer structure to carry increasing traffic between rural Jasper and Lake counties.

Marcus Malczewski, county highway superintendent, said the state was planning to replace the bridge early this fall, but the date will probably be postponed because companies bidding for the work want at least a $2 million contract, which is over the state's estimate.

He said the state will rebid the project in a couple of months.

Hodson said the history society will begin raising money for the bridge project Aug. 23 and 24 at its annual Aukiki River Festival, which features historical re-enactors.

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Lake County reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.