INDIANAPOLIS | The private company set to rebuild the Cline Avenue Bridge in East Chicago and charge drivers tolls for crossing will get assistance from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles in collecting its revenue.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence has signed into law House Enrolled Act 1397, providing United Bridge Partners free access to BMV registration records and requiring the agency to suspend the license plates of motorists who fail to pay their bridge tolls.
Company officials explained to state lawmakers the records access and registration suspensions are needed because they plan to use open-road tolling on the bridge, similar to the Illinois Tollway, and will have no manned toll booths.
Motorists who cross the bridge without an E-ZPass or I-PASS electronic transponder in their vehicles will be mailed a bill that could not be sent or effectively enforced without the new law, they said.
Construction on the $158 million bridge is expected to start in late spring and is projected to employ 300 workers over a 30-month period.
The Indiana Department of Transportation closed the 26-year-old Cline Avenue Bridge on Nov. 13, 2009, and demolished it in 2013 after inspectors determined the bridge's interior support cables were badly corroded and the bridge gravely weakened.
The state declined to rebuild the 1.2-mile bridge, claiming alternate routes on city streets were sufficient to serve the 30,000 vehicles a day that previously used the bridge to get to major region employers such as ArcelorMittal, BP Whiting Refinery, three Lake Michigan casinos and Chicago.
East Chicago and INDOT later struck a deal with United Bridge Partners to build a new, privately owned and operated bridge in place of the condemned span. The city is due to receive 10 cents from every toll.
The new law was sponsored by state Reps. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, and the late Earl Harris, D-East Chicago; and state Sens. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, and Earline Rogers, D-Gary.