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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland announced an agreement in principle with United Bridge Partners, a team of FIGG Bridge Companies, Lane Construction Corp. and American Infrastructure MLP Funds, to build a new toll bridge entirely with private funds in the footprint of the unsafe Cline Avenue structure.
“This is a solution worth waiting for and the state is glad to be a partner to the agreement. I am pleased for all concerned,” said Gov. Daniels in a press statement. “This is a creative move by Mayor Copeland and the City of East Chicago that will be beneficial to Northwest Indiana and puts Indiana further in front as a leader in private sector infrastructure investment.”
The evening of May 17, the East Chicago Common Council authorized Mayor Copeland to sign a Development Agreement that will outline how the bridge would be built, operated and maintained. This new modern bridge will carry all cars and trucks using the transportation network, which pay a toll to cross. Tolls would only be collected electronically, using a system interoperable with transponders for other regional toll systems like the Indiana Toll Road. No tolls would be charged for emergency vehicles responding to a call or during a local emergency declared by the mayor, governor or president.
“A new Cline Avenue Bridge will result in additional construction jobs and related employment while enhancing transportation in East Chicago,” said Mayor Copeland.
Under a separate agreement, INDOT would convey its right of way holdings underneath the Cline Avenue Bridge to United Bridge Partners in exchange for property that INDOT has determined is needed for other projects.
“This new bridge will give East Chicago and Northwest Indiana great opportunities for future growth including expanded business development and more jobs,” said Bob Hellman, chairman of United Bridge Partners and CEO of American Infrastructure MLP Funds. “We at United Bridge Partners are excited that through private funding this community’s dream to restore this vital link will be realized,” said United Bridge Partners Chairman Bob Hellman.
Protections would be put in place to ensure continued transportation safety and mobility. United Bridge Partners would be required to follow national standards for building, inspecting, maintaining and repairing public bridges. The new bridge must meet clearance and environmental permitting requirements for the Indiana Harbor Canal.
Several state legislators have signed letters of support for the United Bridge Partners’ proposal.
Demolition of the closed bridge has begun, and will be completed by the end of 2012. Walsh Construction Company of Crown Point anticipates removing the remaining unsafe portions using a combination of explosives and traditional demolition methods.