VINCENNES, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– As Joe Herron looked at the missing stone facade located on the Lincoln Memorial Bridge, he described the National Parks Service number one concern.
“The real fear is if it happens with the pylons directly over the bridge,” he said.
Herron, the chief ranger at the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, said the park has hoped to fix the problem with the stone facades for decades.
“We’ve been looking at getting funding for this project since the 1980’s,” he said. “It’s been a very long-term, ‘one day this is going to be an issue,’ and we’re just now starting to see a lot of attention given to it.”
He said one of the stones falling off back in February sped up the process.
“When the stone fell, that did accelerate what we considered to be a 5-10 year out scenario was beginning, and we think as we get into the ice season, we’re going to see more stones starting to fall,” he said.
The problem stems from the original construction of the area, back in 1932.
“The stone facades on this bridge approach were put in during [the Great Depression,] they were originally supposed to be attached with either steel or aluminum anchors, and the contractor used wrought iron,” he said. “Because of that, stones are shifting, the weight of stones above it are what’s kind of holding them in.”
Herron said he’s hoping construction will begin sometime between November and January, and the bridge will be closed for approximately 2-3 months.
The bridge closure will cause a headache for some local businesses. Owner of the Vincennes Beauty College, Jessy Fessel, said the number one priority is safety at the bridge, but it does cause delays for her and her staff.
“We will see quite a bit of impact, from that we have students from Illinois who use that bridge every day, employees that come from Illinois and a lot of clients who come from there,” she said. “We’ve in the past, had times when they had to close the bridge for repairs, everyone’s pretty good about going around.”
Herron said the Red Skelton bridge is the closest detour. While he waits for the work to officially start, he said he’s looking forward to when the renovations are complete.
“When the work’s done, we hope to have this looking as it was originally intended in the 1930’s,” he said. “More importantly, it will be a safe access.”