Workers prepare for Nine Span Bridge demolition, replacement
By Christin Nance Lazerus email@example.com January 14, 2013 5:30PM
Barricades block access to the Nine Span Bridge in Hammond Monday Jan.14, 2013. Work began in the 10-month project to replace the 1930's era stucture. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 7:04PM
Indiana Department of Transportation workers closed the Nine Span Bridge in Hammond to traffic early Monday morning in preparation for its spring demolition.
Nearby businesses are pleased the rusting bridge is being replaced, but wary of the impact it could have on their bottom line.
Kline Servicenter Inc. sits alongside the north ramp of the bridge. Owner Ed Kline is taking a wait-and-see attitude about the project at this time.
“It needs to be done, and it sounds like they’ll do it in a good amount of time,” Kline said. “It was closed before for about a year, but that was when the economy was better.”
INDOT is demolishing and reconstructing the 75-year-old bridge that spans the Indiana Harbor Belt rail yard for almost $18 million. The work is scheduled for completion in late 2013.
With prep work for dismantling of the bridge under way, Indianapolis Boulevard is closed to traffic between Summer Street and Michigan Street, forcing drivers to detour via Kennedy Avenue to the east or Columbia Avenue to the west. INDOT spokesman Matt Deitchley said INDOT doesn’t foresee any changes to the street closures, but the agency will adjust if necessary.
Auto Auction Wholesalers’ owner Mike Dilag is concerned the construction will cut down on the traffic that drives past his business, located south of the bridge, on a daily basis.
“It affects us greatly,” Dilag said. “We get most of our customers from passersby. Thank God they didn’t put the detour at 165th Avenue.”
Dilag said he’s already noticed a decline in traffic driving past his lot.
Woodmar Body Shop owner Dick Fantin said the bridge had a number of “Band-Aid” repairs over the years, but it had reached the end of its lifespan. The bridge has shown serious signs of wear in recent years. Traffic was reduced to one lane in each direction in 1999 and superload trucks were banned. It was labeled structurally deficient by INDOT in 2011.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car branch rental manager Gina Palmera said the company has let customers know about the new detours and advised them it might take a bit longer to pick them up.
Deitchley said passersby may not see much activity at the bridge until early February.
“You may see them removing bridge lighting and removing trees from underneath the bridge,” Deitchley said. “You won’t see noticable demolition until the first week of February. We’ll go span by span and go one span per week — that’s the goal but it could change with the weather.”
The bridge must be dismantled with care because of the busy Indiana Harbor Belt rail yard below. Deitchley said INDOT has been in close contact with the railroad to find the best work time, so as not to interfere with deliveries.
Glendale Heights, Ill., firm Dunnet Bay Construction is handling both phases of the project, with reconstruction set to start in early summer.