ELKHART — Elkhart County’s bridges are in better shape compared to structures in other areas around Indiana, according to county engineer Tom Rushlow.
The county’s highway department has received results of a countywide inspection that studied 170 bridges. While many of the structures are in need of repair or replacement, United Consulting of Indianapolis found the county in full compliance with state and federal bridge requirements.
The bridges inspected last year included structures longer than 20 feet on county roads or city streets. Inspectors cataloged roughly 150 categories of information on each bridge’s condition that the highway department uses to create a 10-year bridge maintenance and replacement plan.
Only 14, or about 8 percent, of the bridges in Elkhart County have weight limits compared with 12 percent statewide, according to the report. The rest, Rushlow said, can handle at least 80,000 pounds. Weight limits indicate that a bridge is in fair to poor condition and that it would need work soon, he added.
Half of the bridges with weight limits in Elkhart County are box beam structures, a style that was popular in the ’60s and ’70s featuring hollow, generally rectangular beams. The Prairie Street bridge in Elkhart, for example, was a box beam structure, but it is being replaced with solid bulb-tee beams that tend to hold up better over time, Rushlow said.
A majority of the county’s bridges are box beam structures, and there is a growing concern that many of them will require major maintenance over the next two decades.
“I would classify them as super structure replacements, and in our 10-year plan, we have 24 bridges like that, and 16 of those are box beams that require the beams to be completely replaced,” Rushlow said. “And then we’ve got a 10-year wish list, which includes bridges we were wishing were part of the 10-year plan. There are 15 bridges on that list, and 10 of those are box beams where the beams need to be replaced.”
Five of the county’s bridges with weight limits are scheduled to either be repaired or replaced over the next two years. Construction is planned for three of the structures this summer — on Simonton Street in Elkhart over Christiana Creek, on Monroe Street in Goshen over Rock Run and on C.R. 46 over Daufman Ditch just west of C.R. 15. Crews will work on two others — on C.R. 40 over Stoney Creek on the east side of the county and on C.R. 4 over Christiana Creek — next year.
Two bridges moved up on the highway department’s priority list after the inspections, Rushlow said. The bridge at C.R. 20 over Yellow Creek near Concord High School needs to be replaced, and the bridge on Sherman Street over the St. Joseph River in Elkhart needs work as well.
The Indiana Department of Transportation uses federal funds to pay up to 80 percent of the inspection costs for the biennial project, and county funds cover the remaining 20 percent. The next countywide bridge inspection will be done in 2014.