Cline Avenue plans remain up in the air
The Indiana Department of Transportation has no firm timeline for building a replacement route for the condemned Cline Avenue bridge, but it hopes to have significant parts of the project under way by the middle or end of this year.
“There is no timeline that is official at this point because we don’t know what we are going to do,” said INDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton. “It depends on what options we work on. If it’s relatively easy, we can move relatively quickly.”
INDOT hopes to unveil a permanent solution for traffic in the area by February or March, as it sifts through the 12 options detailed in an environmental impact statement that still is being prepared, Pinkerton said. Then it would need to get federal approval, do design work and solicit the projects for bid.
A hearing will be held on a draft version of the environmental impact study within the next few weeks at a time and location to be announced, Pinkerton said. That study may give the first glimpse at what options are feasible for replacing the condemned bridge.
Plans unveiled by INDOT in April had called for work to begin on a new four-lane, direct access ramp from Cline Avenue to Dickey Road this year, which would be completed in 2012. That plan called for a permanent detour to be constructed using the new ramp, the Dickey Road drawbridge and Riley Road.
INDOT officials had ruled out replacing the bridge itself in April, but they reversed themselves four months later at a public hearing in East Chicago, saying nothing had been decided and all options still were on the table.
Those options include building a new bridge, INDOT’s permanent detour via Dickey and Riley roads, or routing traffic through the heart of East Chicago on state-maintained highways.
In the meantime, traffic remains snarled at rush hour at a number of East Chicago intersections, with several becoming gridlocked, according to a study conducted for INDOT earlier this year.
Traffic on the bridge was about 35,000 vehicles per day when INDOT temporarily closed the bridge in November 2009 and then condemned it a month later due to significant structural damage. It passes over the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal.
INDOT’s “final solution” announced in April split the community, with some business and political leaders supporting INDOT’s plan and some decrying it, saying the proposed detour could never handle traffic volumes similar to what passed over the bridge.
“I don’t think a detour through an industrialized area will replace that bridge,” Iron Workers Local 395 Business Manager Mike Summers said Monday. “All it will do is cause more accidents and congestion and pollution.”