Portage bridge will finally be replaced
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 7, 2012 3:16PM
Road barriers block where the Evergreen Avenue bridge was as a crew with El Oso Construction, incuding Vincent Ruiz (left), work on moving Comcast cable lines in Portage, Ind. Wednesday October 3, 2012. The crew was moving the cables lines in preparation for bridge replacement work to begin later this month. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2012 10:02PM
Kandy Keller was glad to hear that the Evergreen Avenue bridge on Portage’s northwest side will be replaced in the coming months.
“Finally! Absolutely, it’s a pain,” said Keller, a nurse who has to travel west to her job in Hammond and to pick up Boy Scouts.
Keller lives on Timothy Avenue, a cul-de-sac off of Sand Street. Brightly colored barricades greet anyone who tries to go much farther west on Evergreen Avenue than Sand Street.
Going around the detour adds about a mile and a half to Keller’s route. “It may not seem like much, but with gas prices, it adds up,” she said.
That’s about to change. The Porter County Board of Commissioners approved Gariup Construction of Gary to replace the bridge for $573,400 last week, contingent on their bid meeting the specifications for the work. Work is scheduled to begin Oct. 22 and be complete by Jan. 30.
The new bridge will restore a secondary east-west artery in Portage that has been disrupted since the county, which is responsible for bridges 20 feet and longer on county and city roads, closed the bridge in March 2011 because the deck was crumbling.
“From the city’s side, I’m just glad it’s moving to completion,” said A.J. Monroe, Portage’s public works director. “I know there’s been some frustration. I think folks are looking forward to getting it done.”
The road serves several neighborhoods on the city’s northwest side, leaving residents in that area to modify their travel routes since the bridge was closed, Monroe said.
Taking a break from mowing his lawn, John Schafer, who also lives on Timothy Avenue, said the bridge closure would have been even more of an inconvenience if he weren’t retired and were still working at Inland Steel, now ArcelorMittal.
“If I still worked, I’d be mad,” he said.
The bridge will receive temporary cold mix for the paving until the weather warms up and a permanent surface can be put down, Raymond Riddell, the county’s director of engineering, told the commissioners. Landscaping also will have to wait until the spring.
The bridge was constructed in the mid-1960s. A similar one on Lute Road, which also failed, has already been replaced.
The county was going to replace the Evergreen Avenue bridge with one the same size, but Portage officials wanted a bridge with sidewalks on both sides. The county agreed to a sidewalk on one side of the bridge, but that made the structure wider, necessitating the acquisition of three land parcels for easements.
The county had to initiate condemnation proceedings against the owners of one of the land parcels in July, further delaying the bridge replacement. The process was delayed for so long the county had to take bids on the project again.
“It’s been out for a considerable amount of time,” said Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North.
For Keller and other residents of Portage’s northwest side, getting the Evergreen Avenue bridge back means getting a bit of their day back, too.
“It’s another seven to 10 minutes every day. It just makes it a little easier getting place to place on time,” she said.