The May 26th groundbreaking of the Cline Avenue Project marked day one of the Bridge’s resurrection. Like a Phoenix it would rise from the dust, stone, and rubble of its remains to become a stronger, faster feat of engineering.
“Today is truly the beginning of something remarkable,” said Mayor Anthony Copeland of East Chicago.
The first Cline Avenue bridge was built in 1982. The structure degenerated long before it should have and parts of the ramp became unsafe. It served commuters in East Chicago for 26 years before being shut down by INDOT for numerous construction issues.
Closing the bridge disrupted traffic for the 35,000 drivers who used it every day. The city could not afford to redo the entire bridge and considered replacing just parts of it, but further inspection by the Federal Highway Administration deemed the plan too risky for the safety of the community. The entirety of the bridge was demolished in 2013.
Whispers of a private benefactor began that same year.
A company called United Bridge Partners came up with financing for a new bridge without using any local, state, or federal funds. They are even throwing in three million dollars to update and repair roads surrounding their section of roadway.
The new bridge will span 6000 feet and be environmentally friendly. It will be built with modern technologies that include LED lighting. Linda Figg, the president and CEO of FIGG Bridge Group, was very excited about her firm’s design. “The long, open spans and sculptural pier shapes incorporate economy, low maintenance, and aesthetics for a bridge that will last over 150 years.”
To get some return on their investment, United Bridge Partners will be putting up tolls. The roadway will connect businesses on either side of the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal.
Ed Diffendal, CEO of UBP, said that “The vision and mission is to bring private money to fix infrastructure problems in communities. And there is a problem here. We’re excited to contribute to a community where we can enrich lives.”
Figg agreed. “There is a focus here on success and building community. You can feel that love through Mayor Copeland.”
Mayor Copeland was told he would never see plans for a new Cline Avenue bridge realized. Now they are getting their bridge back, improved roads, and a new operations and maintenance facility too.
With the award winning design team of FIGG on the job, this edition of the bridge is sure to impress its daily commuters as well as travelers. It will keep them safe too.
“The third time is a charm,” said Father Sikorski, who did the invocation for the groundbreaking. “I’m glad we are going to begin with an acknowledgement of God.”