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A new bridge joining Crawford and Harrison counties at Milltown took a major step toward becoming a reality last Tuesday, when the Crawford County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 in favor of a two-lane span just upstream of the current single-lane structure.
The project must now be approved by the Harrison County Board of Commissioners, and then both counties' councils need to authorize a formal funding plan. The Crawford County Council gave its blessing to the project earlier this month, but did not provide specifics.
At the request of the Crawford County Commissioners, CPI Supply Inc. in December presented a couple of alternatives for building a new bridge adjacent to the existing structure: one upstream and one downstream. The commissioners asked for those options after plans to build a structure a couple of blocks north at the site of an old railroad bridge proved too costly.
Larry Bye, president of the Crawford County Commissioners and whose district includes the Crawford County side of Milltown, said there seemed to be a consensus among officials in favor of the upstream option, in part because it wouldn't require relocation of as many utilities. He added the landowner on the Harrison County side of the bridge whose property would be affected by reworking the roadway approach has agreed to donate the right-of-way.
The new bridge, which would be 29 feet wide with two 12-foot lanes, a sidewalk and a utility chase, would cost about $1.7 million. Harrison and Crawford officials previously agreed to split the costs 60/40, respectively, as has been tradition on joint bridge projects, putting Crawford's share at about $672,000 and Harrison's at about $1 million.
Bye said a proposal from some Milltown business and elected officials to turn the current bridge into a covered bridge could reduce the total by $240,000, since the utilities located on the current bridge wouldn't have to be relocated. The gas company has agreed to pay to have its line relocated, but the other utilities haven't, he said.
"I will say Harrison County does have a little bit of heartburn on paying $240,000 on the relocation of the utilities," Bye said.
John E. Colin, who serves as the county attorney for both Crawford and Harrison counties, said, "They have never said they have a firm belief" one way or another on the matter.
Bye said the only way the current bridge, which is in Crawford County's inventory, could be saved is for the Town of Milltown to assume all maintenance and liability responsibilities.
District 2 Commissioner Randy Gilmore added that he is concerned that leaving the old bridge in place, with its center pier, would continue to exacerbate Milltown's flooding problems. The conventional belief is that since the new bridge, even though it will also be in the flood plain, will not have a center pier, removing the old bridge and its center pier should alleviate the flow of Blue River.
Bye said Milltown will host a public hearing to address the possibility of taking over the old bridge, and the county needs to determine if it can even transfer ownership.
"I don't know if we can legally turn it over to them or not," he said.
The commissioners expect the required project permits to be secured this year in time for a bid letting near the end of the year. Construction, which would take about eight months, would begin next year and be completed in time for the new bridge to be open by the end of 2009.
In a related matter, the commissioners voted 3-0 to ask the Indiana Department of Transportation to consider redirecting federal funding intended for the Milltown bridge project when the old railroad bridge site was under consideration to a bridge project on Overhead Bridge Road near Taswell.
Although the Milltown bridge project approved by the commissioners earlier in the meeting will be paid for with local funds, the amounts both Crawford and Harrison counties will pay will actually be less than what their shares would have been for a bridge at the old railroad bridge site, even with federal aid.
"We sure want to use that money, if we got it," Gilmore said of redirecting the federal aid to the Taswell bridge.
The letter the commissioners will send to INDOT will also state that the county may still have to use some of those funds for the Milltown project, but that's not its current intention.
In other bridge-related items, the commissioners:
•Voted 3-0 to approve a bridge inspection contract with INDOT. The contract needs to be in place in order for the county to receive reimbursement from the state for inspections.
•OK'd, 3-0, contacting an engineering firm to do preliminary work regarding the curve bridge above the railroad on Milltown's west side. Applications for state aid must be received no later than February.
•Voted 3-0 to approve using $37,059 from the county's Cum Cap Fund to purchase materials for a bridge on Brownstown Road north of English. The project was started a couple of years ago.