Now that property for the Cline Avenue bridge has been turned over to the private developer building a toll bridge where a free bridge once stood, move swiftly to build the new bridge.
The site of the former bridge, which was closed in November 2009 after being deemed unsafe, was transferred in 2012 to Cline Avenue Bridge LLC, which plans to build a toll bridge with private funds.
As part of that deal, the company will provide about $3 million in resurfacing and paving work on sections of Cline Avenue connecting to the new bridge.
Cline Avenue Bridge LLC representatives are conducting the land surveys, design and traffic studies necessary for the bridge. The company is also preparing permit applications.
Once permits are complete, construction is estimated to take two to two and a half years.
That's a long wait in a region that already has been waiting for more than three and a half years.
The Cline Avenue Bridge is needed as an express connector to the developing Gary/Chicago International Airport. Millions of dollars are being poured into that airport so it can become an economic engine for Northwest Indiana. Closing the bridge has also harmed businesses like Ameristar Casino in East Chicago, which saw revenues drop after passengers were rerouted onto a series of surface streets.
After the old bridge was condemned, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels stood on the bridge and vowed to replace it. And why not? The Indiana Department of Transportation had already planned to replace the bridge, but then INDOT balked at paying its share of the cost. So now we're to get a toll bridge.
The state promised a new free bridge, which would have been better than the toll bridge replacing it, but any bridge is better than the gap in the transportation system that now exists.
Plan the bridge well, but don't dawdle. We've been waiting a long time already.