Aging Bridge on Key Railroad Corridor to be Rebuilt

An aging Greene County railroad bridge along a rail line that serves several Daviess County businesses will soon undergo a major rebuild.

The bridge over the West Fork of the White River at Newberry will be rebuilt in the near future as it is considered obsolete. The bridge is 115 years old.

Indiana Rail Road president Tom Hoback says the railroad has reduced the amount of weight that can safely be moved over the bridge in order to give it a longer life span. However, he says that is only a stopgap measure and not the long-term solution. The railroad lowered the weight being hauled across the bridge to 263 thousand pounds and lowered the speed limit to 10 miles an hour in order to preserve the bridge.

The project will benefit from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the United States Department of Transportation. That grant will be worth $8.2 million dollars and is one of only 52 projects across the country to receive such a grant. The Indiana Rail Road will put together the remainder of the funding for the project, which will cost a total of $13.75 million. Some of the remaining money that the railroad will put up will come from Southern Indiana Rairoad ($1.5 million), Duke Energy, and Indianapolis Power and Light Company (IPL).

The improvements will also have an impact on NSA Crane as the rail line is a part of the strategic rail corridor. Officials say that the base handles between 15 hundred and 2 thousand containers from the rail line every year. Indiana 8th District Congressman Larry Bucshon says the bridge serves as a key link for the movement of goods not only into Crane, but also in the movement of coal, grain, and manufactured goods out of Southwestern Indiana.

The original bridge, known as a Pratt style bridge, was built to handle 19th century trains that were much lighter in weight than today’s trains. Eric Powell with the Indiana Rail Road says the company had been fearing a catastrophic failure of the bridge would take place, which would have cut off service to Crane and other customers. Powell says the standard weight that is moved over a railroad bridge in the modern day is 286 thousand pounds. He says the lower weights are costly to not only the customers of the railroad, but also to consumers.

INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield says the cost of the bridge exceeded the Indiana Rail Road’s annual maintenence budget. He says INDOT was more than happy to support the effort to have it rebuilt. Daviess County Economic Development director Ron Arnold says the rebuild will create a better climate for hauling freight. He says it will build competition between the Indiana Rail Road, CSX, and the Southern Indiana Rail Road for customers along the line, which by extension should make businesses more competitive and develop more jobs in the area. The impact of the new bridge is also expected to be felt at the new Indiana Rail Road transload facility at Odon, which opened earlier this year and is located just off of Interstate 69. Arnold says he expects the railroad to execute its plan to expand onto an additional 7 acres at the transload site.

Powell says everything is ready for construction for the bridge and says construction should begin next month. Powell says the new bridge is set to be completed by late next year.