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Funding issues, questions stall Milltown bridge project

The Milltown Bridge project looks stalled once again as funding appeared questionable at Monday night’s joint meeting of Harrison and Crawford County leaders.
The design firm hired to do preliminary work on the project, URS Corp., headquartered in San Francisco, has estimated the total cost of the project to be $5.1 million.
The Indiana Dept. of Transportation would cover 80 percent of the construction costs, or $3 million, of the 325- to 350-foot bridge.
URS representatives said the total cost for each county for the remaining construction costs and preliminary work would be a little more than $1 million each.
The commissioners from Crawford County were not pleased with the cost estimate.
‘This is the first time I’ve heard of a cost over $1 million for Crawford County,’ Commissioner Larry Bye told representatives from URS Monday night. ‘I think we got to get these costs down.’
URS had figured the estimates at an even 50-50 split between the two counties.
Harrison County Commissioner Chairman James Goldman told URS representatives Monday night that the price tag would be split between both counties, with Harrison taking on 60 percent of the costs and Crawford covering the remaining 40 percent. The split is the same amount used in previous projects between both counties.
Even with the 60-40 split, Crawford County’s portion would be about $900,000, a price Crawford leaders still are not sure they can afford.
URS officials only had a cost estimate for alternate one of the project, which would utilize the existing railroad rights-of-way.
A structure at that site would be constructed using piers from the old railroad bridge. Main Street on the Harrison County side would need to be realigned slightly to the north so the bridge could connect on the Crawford County side with what is now Legion Way.
Alternate one, which was preferred by URS officials and by Harrison County Engineer Kevin Russel, would require more approach work, which would drive up the cost of the project. However, choosing that alternative would mean a passable bridge for Milltown residents during a flood.
The other two alternates designed by URS would still be prone to flooding. Alternate two simply replaces the bridge and raises the height of Main Street at various points on the Crawford County side. A portion of the street would still be vulnerable to flooding, making the bridge impassable.
The third alternate places a bridge 50 feet east of Milltown’s current bridge, and it would have many of the same problems as alternate two.
Harrison County Commissioner J.R. Eckart said he believed alternate one would be the best bridge.
‘It provides a 24/7, 365-day-a-year route out of the flood plain,’ Eckart said.
Eckart said they had also discussed putting a walkway on at least one side of the bridge, something not included in the cost estimates.
Harrison County Commissioner Terry Miller did not like having cost estimates for only the first alternate.
‘When you have three alternates, it seems to me you need three prices,’ Miller said.
Russel said cost estimates for all three alternates were made available at a meeting in 2006, and county officials had indicated they preferred alternate one. Miller was not on the board when that meeting took place.
Russel said during that time alternate two was the least expensive to build, but that did not take into account the increase in construction costs that steadily go up three or four percent each year.
He said 2005 and 2006 saw an 11-percent increase each year in construction costs, which brought up another issue of the costs of building the Milltown bridge.
Since leaders began discussing the bridge in 2004, construction costs have increased significantly. Russel said those costs will only continue to rise.
Goldman said if they were unable to go with the preferred alternate, alternate two would be the next best choice. There is about a $1 million difference between the two alternates.
County officials agreed they would still like to see cost estimates on the other two alternates before making any decisions, something that did not sit well with URS officials, residents from Milltown or town of Milltown officials.
URS officials said the other two alternates would not be the best to build because it would not move the connecting streets out of the flood plain.
‘We’d all like to move it up out of the flood plain, but with these costs estimates, I don’t know if we can afford to do that,’ Bye said, speaking for Crawford County.
Kathleen Roggenkamp of Milltown told officials Monday night that Milltown residents were promised a bridge and county officials needed to make good on that promise.
‘Tonight, we’re not going to sit here quietly and sweet,’ she said. ‘We need a bridge, and you need to find the funding to pay for it.’
She said officials were more than able to find funding for the Rothrock Mill bridge.
Roggenkamp also said residents would not want another bridge that would be impassable during flooding.
Milltown Town President Curt Hudson agreed.
‘I can promise you the town’s not going to want that,’ he said.
Russel told officials he felt they were taking three to four steps backward.
‘The bridge doesn’t do you any good if the road going away from the bridge is under water,’ Russel said.
Harrison and Crawford officials told representatives from URS they would like to see estimates for all three alternates. Another joint meeting between the two counties will be scheduled later.
URS officials said at the beginning of the meeting if the project got started now, they could probably begin construction as early as the end of 2009.