Chesterton Tribune

County says safety for school buses priority in 1100N bridge work

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Porter County Highway Superintendent Al Hoagland said the reason he failed to obtain the proper permits prior to beginning work on the new replacement bridge over Coffee Creek on CR 1100 N was because he overlooked the matter while rushing to complete the project before the first day of school.

The county wished to have the new bridge safely in place by Aug. 22, when Duneland school buses would be traveling regularly over the bridge. The current bridge has not seen major repair work in the past 30 years, is “structurally deficient” and is rated the county’s second poorest, said Hoagland.

Chesterton Tribune received an e-mail Monday from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management which said that in a recent investigation the agency determined that the county highway department needed to obtain Section 401 Water Quality Certification and a Section 404 Dredge and Fill permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prior to the bridge work.

A conservation officer from the Department of Natural Resources said the Highway Department’s activities were in violation of water pollution control regulations.

For his part, Hoagland said he takes the blame because he should have checked on proper permits with the agencies. “I just kind of missed the boat,” he said.

Another reason the permits were not obtained was that the 1100N bridge is considered urban and requires different provisions than rural bridges, which is what the county highway department is accustomed to dealing with.

Any bridge over 20 feet in the county, regardless if it’s located on unincorporated or incorporated land, is ultimately overseen by the highway department.

Hoagland said his department is now in communication with the necessary agencies and has applied for the appropriate approvals and the new aluminum bridge is ready to be installed, but he doubts the bridge can be finished before the start of the school year. Once the permits are in place, Hoagland said it would probably take a couple of weeks to install the replacement bridge.

“We want to make sure we do it right,” he said. “The day we get the permits in our hand is the day we will start working on it.”

Hoagland said the new bridge will also be wider than the old bridge.

Northern County Commissioner John Evans commended the highway department’s performance on recent bridge projects including one on CR 100S in Porter Township and said the county may have to close off that portion of 1100N until the bridge is safe to cross.

“We’d rather have roads closed than to have one of those buses fall (into Coffee Creek),” said Evans.

Hoagland thanked the Town of Chesterton for its cooperation in relocating a sanitary sewer main fixed to the bridge earlier this summer.



Posted 8/3/2012