EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (AP) — Steel giant ArcelorMittal and the Indiana
Department of Transportation are at odds over a new plan to rebuild a key
northwest Indiana bridge without bypassing railroad tracks where trains
frequently block traffic.
The Times of Munster reported Sunday that INDOT is nearing a deal to rebuild
the Cline Avenue bridge in East Chicago as a privately operated toll bridge
without on- and off-ramps that skirt the railroad tracks. The state closed
the bridge for safety reasons in 2009.
ArcelorMittal said the additional ramps were a “critical safety matter.”
"The decision to not include the ramp system is detrimental to the health
and safety of our employees, vendors, contractors and the community members
living and traveling through the corridor,” ArcelorMittal spokeswoman Mary
Beth Holdford said in a statement.
The statement came on the heels of remarks by Michael Rippey, ArcelorMittal
USA’s chief executive officer, to Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., and other
members of the Congressional Steel Caucus in Washington urging lawmakers to
make renewed investments in the nation’s infrastructure.
“All we have to do is look out our front door of one of our biggest plants,
Indiana Harbor in East Chicago, Indiana, to see the costs of our failure to
invest,” Rippey said.
“As Vice Chairman Visclosky knows all too well, the major highway designed
to service that plant, Cline Avenue, has been closed for several years,
forcing industry to divert heavy loads onto local side streets, which were
never designed to serve that purpose,” Rippey said. “We face safety concerns
for our workers and our neighbors, extraordinary congestion and substantial
economic loss. Yet the solution eludes us.”
INDOT originally planned to build ramps to the Cline Avenue bridge ramps at
an intersection with Dickey Road to get traffic over the railroad tracks,
The Times reported.
INDOT confirmed the new plan does not include the additional ramps.
“East Chicago and INDOT are in negotiations with a private company to
rebuild Cline Avenue as a private toll bridge,” INDOT spokeswoman Shelley
Haney told The Times in an email message. “The new toll bridge will be
rebuilt in the same path as the old Cline Avenue Bridge, which would
preclude a new connection point to Dickey Road.”
The bridge is about to be demolished, eliminating at least temporarily what
was once the busiest thoroughfare over the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal.
In April 2010, five months after the bridge’s failure, INDOT unveiled a plan
for a $75 million permanent detour around the bridge using Dickey and Riley
roads and including a new ramp system from Cline to Dickey, where none
existed before. Under the plan, those ramps were to have been completed this
At the time, INDOT said traffic on the 1.2-mile bridge before it closed did
not justify the cost of building a new one at a cost of $150 million or
A year later, Ameristar Casino came forward with a plan to subsidize the
building of a new Cline bridge and began discussions with INDOT before that
plan eventually fell through.