The state of Indiana gave a financial jumpstart to the restoration of The Harmony Way Bridge in late December.
An effort to reopen the four-span Wabash River Harmony Way Bridge between Illinois and Indiana, closed since 2012, will get a $350,000 from the Hoosier State. Indiana officials announced the funding Dec. 20 for the bridge which connects Indiana State Road 66 from New Harmony, Ind. to Illinois Route 14 in Crossville, Ill.
The New Harmony Bridge and Wabash River Authority, an entity created by the Indiana General Assembly to help assume ownership of the bridge, released a statement about the funding, which has been referenced as “seed financing” from the Office of Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb.
"This money will cover half of the estimated inspection and repair costs to re-open the bridge, which should then self-sustain as a toll bridge once it’s re-opened," the bridge authority said in a news release. "The other half of the funding is expected to come [from] the state of Illinois through the Illinois Bridge Authority as equal partners in this innovative solution to this regional need."
Several media outlets have reported that Illinois has indeed promised to match the $350,000 pledged by the Hoosier State. However, Illinois New Harmony Bridge Authority Chairman Mike “Spud” Eggbert denied those reports when reached for comment by The Navigator.
“I saw a lot of inaccuracies in those reports,” said Eggbert. “Illinois has not committed to matching those funds.”
The Illinois authority has discussed possible revenue streams for the project, including a $1 million bridge program grant.
It is also important to note that the cost of restoring the bridge, either on a short or long-term basis, has not yet been determined. An engineering study required to begin the project is currently accepting bids through the Illinois Department of Transportation, with seven eligible firms expressing interest, according to Eggbert.
The results of the engineering study will give the two authorities an estimate for the cost of restoring the bridge.
The Harmony Way Bridge is named on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1930 by private company Big Wabash Bridge Company of Carmi, under the direction of the Harmony Way Bridge Company. The bridge was purchased by the federal government in 1941, and created the White County Bridge Commission to temporarily own and manage the bridge until the tolls pay for the cost of construction.
President Donald Trump signed the Restore the Harmony Way Bridge Act into law this past July, which transferred the bridge from federal to state control. Illinois and Indiana each elected to create authorities to assume partial ownership of the bridge prior to the Act being passed: The Illinois New Harmony Bridge Authority in Illinois and the New Harmony Bridge and Wabash River Authority in Indiana.
An inquiry made to Governor Holcomb’s office regarding the $350,000 in funding and whether it would take the form of a grant, loan or bond, has not been returned by time of press.