Wednesday, April 2, 2014

More Troubles for Blackford Bridge

J-E News Editor
When the Blackford Bridge opened in January, county officials really thought they could but the troubles with that structure behind them. But like a bad penny, troubled with the bridge have surfaced barely two months later.
“We thought everything was good with the Blackford Bridge,” said Judge Executive Jim Townsend. “Then I was informed about two weeks ago that the state was going to inspect it. They said that even though the bridge belonged to the county, the state governs bridges and that they would tell us what we had to do with it.”
The issue in question was not one of structural integrity, but of the bridge’s status. The Blackford Bridge is officially designated as a pedestrian only bridge and is part of the Veterans Memorial Walk that stretches from Blackford into rural Crittenden County, connecting a veterans memorial in Webster County with one in Crittenden. But for years local residents have used the bridge for vehicle traffic, regardless of signs at both ends warning that it was for pedestrians only.
Townsend said that recently the state had gone to take a look at the bridge, and while they were there, several vehicles drove across it. That volume of ‘illegal’ traffic has apparently led state highway officials to feel that the bridge, which does not appear on any highway map, should be brought up to state highway standards.
“I really think it is a done deal now,” said Townsend.
If the state moves forward with the issue, the county will be responsible or making a number of improvements to the bridge, as well as the cost of maintaining it.
Among the changes that will have to be made are additional floor boards and new metal railing. Townsend also said that, due to the narrow width of the bridge, it will probably be necessary to install a stoplight at either end of the bridge.
For years the county has tried to keep traffic off of the bridge by several different means. Townsend said they dumped loads of gravel at the end of the bridge, but someone came along with a tractor and moved it. After the bridge started deteriorating ten years ago, he said they even pulled up a twenty foot section of the flooring. Vehicles still drove across it.