BY LEN WELLS

Officials with the Illinois and Indiana New Harmony Bridge Authorities are working against a July 12 deadline to submit an application for a federal “Raise” grant that would result in the re-opening of the New Harmony Bridge. If approved, the federal funding would be used to rehabilitate and and reopen the aging span.   The bridge links White County in Illinois to Posey County, Indiana and has been closed since 2012 after major structural deficiencies were noted following an inspection.

During an in-person meeting of the two groups last Friday in Carmi, members announced that a study of the plates that connect the beams and girders to the bridge columns will be completed by two University of Indiana engineering students and their respective professors. The inspection of the “gussets” must be completed as part of the Bridge Authority’s grant application. 

Officials have also been in contact with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) of  Northbrook, Illinois to complete an underwater inspection of the bridge.  The underwater inspection is also a requirement of the grant application and must be completed every five years.    

As part of the grant application requirements, officials are working to complete some environmental studies including a mussel and fish survey as well as a survey of the bat population in the area. The Authority has been in contact with a firm that has agreed to complete the study free of charge.

In other action, officials have approved the installation of heavy-duty chains and locks on the Illinois side of the bridge to prevent pedestrian trespassers from crossing the span.  Director Spud Egbert reported that someone recently cut the lock off the barricade blocking the Illinois entrance to the bridge and installed their own lock.  Egbert surmised that some individuals have been accessing the bridge to walk across the Wabash River to dine at various New Harmony restaurants.  The Authority has given its approval for the installation of bolt cutter-proof chains and locks to thwart trespassers.

The next meeting of the New Harmony Bridge Authority has been set for September 14.