Porter County Government Advances Bridge Improvements With $15.5 Million In Grant Funding.
Over the past few years, most people have been aware of the $30 million invested in county owned buildings without a tax increase, and a $20 million investment in stormwater infrastructure improvements. What has not received much attention is the County’s focus on the 132 bridges it is responsible for maintaining.
“Our citizens may not be aware that these 132 bridges are not just in unincorporated areas of the county,” said Commissioner Jim Biggs. “Many of them are along major thoroughfares in our cities and towns.”
In 2017, a Highway Engineering team was established in the Department of Development & Storm Water, and a professional engineer and project manager were hired to develop and implement a new bridge asset management strategy. Based on the bridge rating study required by the Federal Highway Administration, it was clear that the county bridge infrastructure was deficient. The Commissioners began to allocate more money to its bridge fund while continuing to keep the county property tax rate flat.
“We’ve approached the bridge problem the same way we have approached other major issues,” said Commissioner Laura Blaney. “We identified a need, hired top-notch professionals to address the need, developed a plan and found the funding.”
In 2018, the county spent $625 thousand to provide preventative maintenance on 32 county bridges. In 2019, using $2.75 million of the $30 million of the capital upgrade plan, the three worst bridges were reconstructed. An additional $800 thousand was spent rehabilitating two major bridges in 2019.
At the June 8th Board of Commissioners’ meeting, Development & Storm Water Director Bob Thompson provided the Commissioners with a bridge progress update. As part of the update, Thompson also announced that $15.5 million in grant funding has been secured to rehabilitate or reconstruct 17 bridges in years 2021 through 2025. Eleven of those bridges are included on the list of the top 15 bridges in Porter County that require replacement.
“Securing $15.5 million in grant funding to improve our bridges is historic,” said Commissioner Jeff Good. “Due to the efforts of Bob and his team, we are now able to dramatically improve our bridge infrastructure.”
Here is a drone photo of the current reconstruction of Bridge #62 which is County Road 625 West over the Kankakee River. This bridge ranks as the number one bridge on the list of county bridges that require replacement.
You can view the slide show presentation below: