Starke County officials closed three bridges last week and determined that at least half of the bridges in the county need to be replaced or repaired.
The following bridges were closed:
Bridge #9 over the Jane Ditch (700 N and 500 E) in Oregon Township;
Bridge #62 over the Smith Ditch (Range Rd. and 500 S) in California Township;
Bridge #156 over the Robbins Ditch (Range Rd. between 400 and 500 N) in Davis Township.
“We had the bridge inspectors come out that the Commissioners hired to do our biannual inspection,” explained Highway Superintendent Steve Siddall. “They found three bridges critical as the structures are in very bad shape. They recommended that we immediately close them and we had to do it within so many hours. I know it has upset a lot of people and it’s hard for us at the Highway Garage too as we have to go around the road closures too. For safety reasons, that’s why they were closed. The super structures are not going to hold up to the standards that the State and the Feds want.”
Siddall said the county is seven years behind on bridge work.
“We could even be as far as ten years,” he said. “They set a Master Plan years ago, around 1999 or 2000, to upgrade bridges, so many a year. They started on that and then somewhere along the line, they got off that. We have done bridge work. I’m not saying the County Highway hasn’t. We’ve installed box culverts in the place of regular bridges, but nobody kept going on and trying to get the bridges. When this new Board of Commissioners came in and I took over, we looked at the bridges and started to put the ones online that we could and tried to take care of some in-house. We have tried to catch up but we just accumulate enough money in the bridge fund.”
One bright moment of the presentation was when certified engineer, Lee Neghi, offered to do engineering design work on Bridge #156. Neghi claimed he could speed up the process for getting a new bridge built across the span.
“He can possibly save money for the County taxpayers and the Highway Department. We’re all in favor of that. If he can do that, great. I’m all for that and opening the roads as soon as possible. With Federal funding and with the State, it could take up to two years and Lee claims he can do something better. We could use the federal funds and if Lee can do something, we could have the roads open as early as mid-summer.”
Starke County has received federal funding for bridge #156 but it could take two years to get it built. It comes with a 20% match. Neghi claims all of the engineering and building work could be done for the match money that could be about $150,000.
Sidell said three other bridges might have to go to one lane of traffic while work is done on them.