EDITORIAL: Building bridges, but not in NWI

2012-07-10T00:00:00Z 2012-07-19T17:24:34Z EDITORIAL: Building bridges, but not in NWI nwitimes.com
July 10, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The Indiana Department of Transportation has offered $10 million in spare change to help replace an aging toll bridge over the Wabash River in New Harmony. So why is that news in Northwest Indiana? Because the bridge situation here is anything but harmonious.

The 82-year-old New Harmony bridge needs to be replaced, no question about it. And the $10 million from INDOT is only a portion of the $20 million to $25 million cost of a new bridge. A private toll authority operated the bridge. Federal funding isn't an option for that bridge. 

But the Cline Avenue bridge, closed since 2009, would qualify for federal funding if INDOT put up the local match. INDOT estimated the cost of that bridge at $150 million, so the local -- meaning INDOT -- share of the cost would be $30 million.

Look at the two bridges. INDOT would pay $10 million for a bridge carrying fewer than 1,000 vehicles per day but won't pay $30 million to replace a bridge that carried 35,000 vehicles a day. That's strange math.

The Cline Avenue bridge is a vital part of Northwest Indiana's transportation infrastructure, yet it remains closed, waiting for a private developer to build a toll bridge where there used to be a freeway. This stinks.

In May, the East Chicago City Council gave Mayor Anthony Copeland permission to sign a deal with United Bridge Partners to grant a 10-year tax abatement in exchange for a cut of the revenues from the toll bridge that would be built there.

The bridge must be rebuilt, by whatever means necessary. If it has to be a toll bridge, so be it.

But if INDOT has that much cash sitting around, why hasn't it been forthcoming for the Cline Avenue bridge replacement? Having Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announce tax refunds next year because the state has so much extra money, at a time when such a basic need as replacing a bridge vital to commerce in Northwest Indiana, is salt in the wound.

It's one more instance of the Hoosier Holy Land slapping Northwest Indiana in the face.

Not only is INDOT not building political bridges here, but so far there are no concrete signs of a physical bridge being built, either. How long must this region suffer?

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