National Register denies Indiana’s plans to move bridge

Mike Leamon of Indianapolis enjoys a quiet moment as he looks out over the country side during his visit to Brown County State Park in Nashville, Ind., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

BOWLING GREEN, Ind. (AP) — The National Register of Historic Places has denied Indiana’s request to move a two-span steel truss bridge to southern Indiana, boosting the hopes of preservationists who want the structure to stay put.

The Indiana Department of Transportation had sought permission to move the western Indiana bridge’s two sections to separate locations on the Salt Creek Trail, a walking trail that will eventually link Brown County State Park to Nashville’s town limits.

But National Register historian Patrick Andrus sent the department a letter last week saying its plans to move the bridge from the Clay County town of Bowling Green, about 25 miles east of Terre Haute, “would destroy the historic integrity of the (bridge) and render it ineligible for the National Register of Historic Places.”

Clay County assistant historian Robert Hostetler said the registry’s verdict provides a “boost” to historical and preservation interests who want the bridge to remain in place and be restored into a local attraction.

Hostetler said the bridge, which crosses the Eel River on Indiana 46 and was built in 1935, is believed to be one of the last remaining doublespan creations of the Vincennes Bridge Co.

“It’s a landmark for Clay County, a symbol of the Depressionera,” he told the Tribune-Star. “I’ve known it all my life, and I think it should be saved for future generations.”

Tommy Kleckner, director of Indiana Landmarks’ western regional office, said Clay County plans to develop a park around the structure allowing recreational access to the river. He called the registry’s letter encouraging.

“We believe it makes a stronger case for seeing the bridge remain in place,” he said.

Moving the bridge and keeping it in its current location were the two options INDOT considered.

INDOT spokeswoman Debbie Calder said Monday that Indiana’s historic bridges program “does not compel INDOT to preserve the bridge at the existing location if a responsible party does not step forward to assume ownership and future maintenance responsibilities.”

Clay County is currently reviewing a draft transfer of ownership agreement and weighing “whether it will take responsibility of the bridge as a rehabilitated pedestrian structure,” she said.

Calder added that INDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and state historic preservation officer must eventually “come to agreement on the preferred alternative” for the bridge.

Under the option of keeping the bridge in Clay County, INDOT would renovate it for pedestrian use.

A new, twospan, 400foot bridge to accommodate traffic crossing the river would be built south of the existing structure for a total project cost of $10.3 million.

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