Collaborative & Innovative
Our goal is to 1. Remedy all identified engineering deficiencies 2. Re-open the bridge for pedestrian and bicyclists 3. Explore the option of opening a lane for vehicular traffic. Here's how...
The Bridge is currently owned by the White County Bridge Commission, which was created by the Federal Government in 1941 to temporary manage the bridge until the cost of constructing it was paid for through tolls. The ownership was then meant to be transferred to the adjoining states of Indiana and Illinois. This transfer, for many reasons, never took place. So, the bridge has been managed by this three member commission through Federal appointments since 1941.
This has created several major hurdles to long-term management of the bridge:
-When new appointments are needed to the commission, they have to be done at the federal level.
-The WCBC has paid property tax in IN and IL (most government entities are tax exempt)
-The WCBC does not have access to government funds or grants typical for managing a structure like this.
-The WCBC does not have access to typical insurance markets for an interstate bridge.
The bridge has been closed since 2012 with no adjoining government entity having an interest in ownership. So, knowing that the current commission structure wasn't working and that transferring ownership to a government entity as the original legislation contemplates isn't working, a new long-term solution needed to be found.
Generous donors made it possible for Lora and Marsh to work with the Ice Miller firm of Indianapolis to consult on the best long-term fix for the ownership structure. That plan entailed asking the state of Indiana to establish a Bridge Authority- an independent government entity to own and manage the bridge. This authority will:
-Put appointment powers at the state and local level (v. Federal)
-Be property tax exempt
-Have access to government grants
-Have access to better liability coverage
The legislation creating the Bridge Authority passed the IN House in on 3/8/18 and was signed into law by Governor Holcomb on 3/21/2018. We want to thank Representative McNamara, Senator Tomes, the County Commissioners of Posey County, and the Town of New Harmony for your support in completing this first important step!
-Communication with Illinois about how they want to be involved int his project going forward. This could look like a bi-state authority, a single state authority managing the whole bridge, or other models.
-Transferring ownership to the new entity and start the repairs!
USE & REVENUE
This bridge is an important landmark to the community and in the past was an important connection for vehicle traffic to Southern Illinois. All involved in this project understand there are many people with many good reasons, that feel this bridge should be re-opened as a 2-lane traffic bridge as it was before. However, the dollars available through the Regional Cities Initiative are for quality of life projects that will make our region a "destination to live, work, and play." In other words, only an all-pedestrian or hybrid (one lane traffic, one lane pedestrian) model would meet this intent.
So, although the creation of the proposed Bridge Authority is not tied to any specific use model (pedestrian v. vehicular traffic), the pedestrian models are the only options with funding at this time.
In choosing between the all-pedestrian and hybird models, the engineering studies completed last summer let us know that the expected minimum cost of repairing and re-opening the bridge will be about $400,000. The hybrid model will require more initial investment putting the price tag for one lane of car traffic at about $600,000. So, the final use choice may, initially at least, be driven by the cost considerations.
The sustainability plan for this bridge as a hybrid or all-pedestian bridge will be a mix of cutting major expenses and exploring new streams of revenue.
Cutting Major Expenses
From analyzing past audits of the White County Bridge commission, we know the historical costs of operating the bridge as a two-lane traffic way. We know we can cut some major expenses through the new ownership model (property tax, insurance, and salaries for toll takers.) If the hybrid use model were chosen, we have explored automated toll systems.
New Streams of Revenue
Lora and others on the project have worked with the management team of the Louisville Waterfront Park to learn form their successes and challenges. They generously contributed their time in Louisville and New Harmony to help us think through event rental options, corporate sponsorship, use fees, and more.
Depending on whether there is one lane of car traffic, or all pedestrian the possible sources of revenue could be a combination of:
-Tolls/use fees- pedestrians or cars
The new Bridge Authority would decide whether to pursue some or all of these possibilities, and those uses could change over time to adapt to the needs of the community and lessons learned over time.