EDITORIAL: Build bridges locally, real and symbolic

2013-12-08T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Build bridges locally, real and symbolic nwitimes.com
December 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Wednesday's opening of the new Columbia Avenue bridge on the Hammond-Munster border shows what can happen when local governments work together.

The bridge was closed to traffic Aug. 9 for the $1.2 million demolition and reconstruction project.

The former bridge deck was so low that it made the surrounding area vulnerable to flooding on the Little Calumet River unless barriers were put at either end of the bridge, closing it to traffic during and soon after heavy rains. The new bridge is above the 200-year flood stage, in keeping with the levee project's standards.

Lake County, which is responsible for bridges in the county, didn't have enough money to do the project. So the county paid half, with the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission paying one-fourth and Munster and Hammond splitting the remainder.

Munster and Hammond weren't legally obligated to help pay for the bridge, but they did what was necessary to get the job done and protect their residents.

It's a good lesson on building bridges not just to cross rivers or railroad tracks, but also to bring people together.

In his Nov. 3 column, Highland Clerk-Treasurer Michael Griffin proposed pooling resources along these lines with a portion of the new income tax revenue coming in.

With each community — and of course county government — putting a relatively small portion of this new money into a countywide capital projects fund, big things could be accomplished. On their own, units of local government often are unable to afford expensive but important projects. Sharing the burden can make those changes possible.

Griffin's idea makes sense. It requires building trust among Lake County's communities as well as building in safeguards to ensure the money is spent wisely.

It's a discussion that needs to begin so the money isn't squandered on raises, pension boosts and the like before it can be used to transform the quality of life in Lake County.

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