VERMILLION COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– At one point, the State Road 163 bridge over Brouilletts Creek in Vermillion County was slated to be replaced.
The condition of the bridge, which was built in 1933, had been deteriorating and needed renovations. But recently, it was declared a “select historic bridge,” by state and federal agencies, changing the way the Indiana Department of Transportation can move forward with the project.
“Going forward, INDOT has to adhere to the processes and standards set by the Federal Highway Administration and the State Historic Preservation Office,” Megan Delucenay, the public relations director for INDOT’s West-Central Region, said.
Those processes include identifying alternatives for renovations now that the bridge won’t be replaced. A “Historic Bridge Alternatives Analysis” completed by the Parsons Corporation in 2021 identified one alternative, making the bridge one lane and adding stoplights to each end, as the “preliminary preferred alternative” for INDOT.
Vermillion County Commissioner Tim Yocum said it’s a project local residents are against.
“We’re very concerned about changing this bridge,” he said. “Most people, in fact, everyone I’ve talked, to is against changing the bridge status.”
He said most of the worry comes from the amount of heavy traffic that moves through the area.
“We got a lot of heavy trucks coming through here, a lot of business coming from Illinois,” Yocum said.
The analysis completed by Parsons did identify making renovations and keeping it as a two-way bridge as a possible alternative. However, it said it would “potentially exacerbate the existing safety issues due to the reduction in shoulder width required to accommodate a railing that meets crashworthiness standards,” and therefore did not meet the project’s “purpose and need.”
Yocum said his office has offered an additional way forward.
“If this bridge is so historical, why don’t we just move it some other place,” he said. “We’ve offered to take and move it to one of our trail systems.”
Yocum said he’s talked to state representatives on the issue, and is working to meet with the state’s Historic Preservation Office for a meeting.
Delucenay said nothing is set in stone for the project, and INDOT should have more information on it in the coming weeks.
“It’s a lot of walking through some of those procedures and standards set federally, so we’re still in the process of talking through those steps,” she said. “I can tell you can expect to here more information from us, specifically how the public can get involved, very soon.”