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Sad to say, but the closed bridge over the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal is becoming a symbol of the Calumet Region.

There have certainly been plenty of bridge controversies, but I'm just not sure why the present problem calls for major solutions. Where were the inspectors when the bridge was built?

The easy answer is that they were counting their payoffs. As a frequent user of the Cline Avenue stretch of "Indiana's most expensive highway," I have to say that the present problem came to me, an ordinary user, suddenly and without warning.

Many of you will remember the 1982 collapse during the bridge construction that sent 14 workers plunging to their death. At that time, the plan to use a new design on the bridge was canceled and a more conservative plan was activated.

At the time I pointed out that there were certain dangers inherent in building over what had been a lake. Originally, there had been a chain of five inland lakelets - Berry, George, Wolf, Hyde, and Calumet.

I thought that switching to the more conservative plan took care of that and other matters. Apparently not, although I would like someone to explain to me, in plain English, why not.

In pioneering days, travelers going to Chicago usually took the beach route, fine during the freezing season but challenging in warmer seasons when the sand was slow. This inspired the routers of traffic to steer the stagecoaches and such to the south.

Sooner or later, this required bridges at strategic points. Most of these routes went through the Bailly homestead and, from there, one of several branches into Illinois. The most famous of these was one that crossed the Little Calumet River just west of the mouth of Salt Creek.

For good reason, it was known as the terrifying "ever-to-be-remembered-by-those-who-crossed-it" bridge. Built by Lake and Porter counties in 1836, it was about 1,000 feet long and made of poles. It was a structure that carried more thrills than the parachute drop at Riverview Park.

Indeed, most travelers debarked their vehicles, even horses, to walk the length of the bridge. Those who survived usually took a route that ran through Liverpool, Munster, Thornton, and Blue Island into Chicago.

Another route became what is today Dunes Highway, which ran through Aetna, Tolleston, and Hegewisch. In more recent times, the viaduct (perhaps one of you can explain to me why what in some circles would be called a bridge is called a viaduct) along Columbus Drive in Indiana Harbor tried to connect East Chicago and Indiana Harbor.

It did, as far as the railroad yards were concerned, since it skied over them, but it didn't, because of other factors: a rotten wooden bridge over the canal, incomplete paving of  Columbus Drive, etc. That was in the late 1920s.

In 1937, the most ambitious bridge of all connected East Chicago with Woodmar. Like the Columbus Drive bridge, it's still in use.

The next major bridge was what came to be called the Calumet Skyway, now the Chicago Skyway, built in the mid-1950s and still going strong.

So what happened to the bridge over the canal?

Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

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