(Michigan City, IN) - Federal funding is being sought to replace the historic Franklin Street draw bridge in Michigan City.
Whether replacing or rehabilitating the 1932 lakefront bridge over Trail Creek has been debated for years. However, the issue appears to have been settled by recent reports the condition of the bridge is declining more rapidly than expected.
“This is falling apart. I just see the deterioration going too fast, too quick,” said La Porte County Councilman Mark Yagelski.
The LaPorte County Commissioners are asking Congressman Frank Mrvan (D) of Hammond to try and secure money from the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill signed last month by President Joe Biden.
The money, if obtained, will pay for an estimated six to eight million dollar cost of engineering and designing a new bridge. Mrvan was also informed by the commissioners his office will be relied on again to pursue funding to pay for actual construction.
La Porte County government, which is responsible for the bridge's upkeep, recently allocated $1.5 million annually over the next five years to maintain it. But, a feasibility study from 2017 estimated the cost of a new draw bridge at $80 million and $45 million for a complete rehabilitation of the existing span.
The bridge is the main route to and from the lakefront. It must open to allow U.S. Coast Guard vessels and masts on sailboats traveling to and from the lake to clear the bridge deck. The fear is the money set aside for maintenance will not be enough now to keep the bridge moving up and down, when necessary, every time.
Mrozinski said the bridge already with a history of failing, occasionally, could be ordered by the U.S. Coast to remain open if problems with lowering and raising it start happening more frequently. However, that would force motorists to use Center Street, a narrow and winding route through residential areas nestled in the dunes, to get to and from the lakefront.
Mrozinski said rehabilitating the bridge is still a possibility if federal dollars for a new bridge, for example, are not obtained or fall short of paying the entire cost. He said the plan is to schedule a meeting between local officials and Mrvan or representatives from the congressman's office to address the bridge.
“We need to start looking at it now because the bridge is not going to last forever. There’s going to come a time when we have to replace it. I’ll be anxious to see what they’re willing to come up with,” he said.