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Cline Ave. Bridge construction could start next year
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Cline Ave. Bridge construction could start next year

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The builder of the new Cline Avenue Bridge says construction should start in the first half of 2014 and a toll range of somewhere between $2.25 and $3.50 is contemplated for cars.

"This bridge will be about reconnecting this community to the state highway system," Linda Figg, CEO of the Figg Group, said Wednesday after attending a meeting of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

The Figg Group leads a consortium of companies which now own the right-of-way for the former Cline Avenue Bridge over the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal. It is working to attract investors to pay for the building of a 1.2-mile private toll bridge.

The start date of 2014 belies previous predictions that construction would begin this year. In February, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland optimistically said construction might begin in late spring.

It will take two to 2 1/2 years to complete construction of the bridge, according to previous estimates from Figg Group. The bridge will have LED lighting on its concrete piers.

The Figg Group has won numerous awards for its bridge designs.

On Wednesday, Copeland remained full of enthusiasm for the project, saying it will be an economic driver for his city.

"It will be a gateway attraction to our lakefront," Copeland said.

Copeland responded to criticisms the city should get a bigger share of tolls than called for in its agreement with the private bridge consortium.

"The economic development that will come from putting this bridge in place will far exceed any money they could have given us from that toll," Copeland said.

East Chicago will receive 10 cents for every vehicle that passes over the bridge, according to its agreement with the private consortium.

Figg spoke with The Times after Purdue University President Mitch Daniels spoke to the chamber at Dynasty Banquets in Hammond. When Daniels was Indiana governor, he boosted privatization of the Cline Avenue Bridge as the best way to get it rebuilt.

Figg said it took longer than expected to obtain the bridge right of way from the Indiana Department of Transportation. That transaction was completed in June.

The company is in the process of developing and submitting permit applications to regulatory agencies including the Coast Guard, because the canal is a navigable waterway.

No exact toll structure for vehicles has been established, but Figg estimated the toll for cars at between $2.25 and $3.50. The nearby Chicago Skyway charges $4 for cars and $25.20 for large semitrailer trucks during peak hours.

The Cline Avenue Bridge was condemned in December 2009 when it was confirmed interior support cables had rusted out, gravely weakening the 1.2-mile structure. Its demolition was completed in January of this year.

In addition to the Figg Group, other corporate entities involved are United Bridge Partners of American Infrastructure MLP Funds and Lane Construction Corp.

American Infrastructure Funds will raise the estimated $150 million to $250 million it will take to build the bridge from private investors. Those investors in turn will enjoy a cut of the bridge's profits.


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