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Bad bridges cause headaches for drivers

Indiana ranks 14th in the country when it comes to bridges that are structurally deficient.

Posted: May 2, 2018 11:00 PM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - Indiana ranks 14th in the country when it comes to bridges that are structurally deficient.

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association said 1,435 bridges across Indiana are deficient, which is about 7.4 percent of bridges in the state.

Fort Wayne bridges in need of repair:

Edsall Avenue - 2018

Stonehedge Boulevard - 2019

Van Buren - As early as 2019

Elizabeth Street

Many of those bridges are around Indianapolis.

Allen County only has two highly traveled bridges that are structurally deficient; Bluffton Road over the St. Mary's River and I-69 just south of Jefferson Boulevard.

However, city and state leaders said structurally deficient bridges are still safe to travel, comparing it to a car that might need a new windshield wiper.

Instead, officials are focusing on other bridges, such as the Edsall Avenue Bridge which is so unsafe, the city closed it a couple years ago.

"I thought it was crazy," said Angela Grosgean who lives on the north side of the bridge.

She said having the bridge closed for so long is a big inconvenience.

"When that train stops on the railroad tracks, the only choice you have to go all the way to Coliseum Boulevard," she said.

This means an extra 20 minutes to get her kids to the bus stop at Adams Elementary just on the other side of the bridge.

"It's really hard to commute in the morning. That traffic over here is backed up a lot of the time in the morning. It's crazy," said Grosgean.

The cities of Fort Wayne and New Haven took over bridge maintenance from the Allen County Highway Department this year.

"Edsall Avenue was identified as being structurally obsolete bridge so we had to shut it down until we could replace it," said public works director Shan Gunawardena.

Bridges in Indiana are inspected every two years.

"Bridges take a beating because of the traffic volume," said Nichole Thomas, INDOT Fort Wayne spokeswoman.

"As long as you are monitoring them, and you see them before they fail, and you can take corrective action," Gunawardena.

If something is wrong, the bridge will have weight limits put on them before they are closed.

The Van Buren Street bridge over the St. Mary's river near downtown is one of four bridges with restrictions in Fort Wayne.

It is currently limited to 17 tons.

The city said that bridge is in the design phase for rehabilitation with work starting as early as next year.

However, people near the Edsall Avenue bridge said weight limits don't always work.

"It's been a real headache," said Tarria Fields, who has lived near Edsall Avenue for about a decade.

Edsall Avenue was limited to four tons when it was closed.

"The truck traffic is just awful when the bridge is open. If they can stop the truck traffic once they fix it, everybody will be happy," said Fields.

Fields said the biggest frustration is when people from out of town visit her.

"They have to re-route. It's kind of difficult for them to get around, it was easier for them to just come across the bridge," she said.

While cars aren't allowed to drive across the bridge, people are still allowed to walk across it.

But that doesn't mean people are.

"I don't like the gate, I don't like the closure, it's dark. I just don't even go that way anymore," said Fields.

"I feel if it's not safe for cars, then how safe is it for us to walk across?" asked Grosgean.

The Edsall Avenue bridge is expected to be replaced this summer.

Most of the time, the agency responsible for maintaining a roadway is also repsonsible for bridge maintance.

However INDOT takes care of bridges over their highways to help maintain safety.

"We want to make sure it never deteriorates to the point where it is impacting travel below on our state or federal roadway," said Thomas.

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