In perhaps the shortest ever bridge dedication of its kind, hastened by a below freezing temperature and even colder wind chills, the new Indianapolis Avenue bridge that links Hammond with East Chicago, was dedicated Monday afternoon.
Jim Pinkerton, Communications Director for the Indiana Department of Transportation Northwest District started the dedication promptly at 12:30 p.m. introducing the line-up of guests including Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann, Representative Ed Soliday. Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland, Hammond City Council members and other local officials.
Lt. Governor Ellspermann (above photo) was the first to address the assembled crowd of construction and steel workers, local government officials and media, saying "the project demonstrates great cooperation between INDOT, local officials and economic development officials." Ellspermann said the new bridge meets two needs, "safety and efficiency" but also by improving the bridge's elevation over the switch yard, will facilitate future expansion in the area.
(photo: L to R; East Chicago mayor Anthony Copeland, Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, Indiana Lt. governor Sue Ellspermann and 4th District Represenative Ed Soliday)
Before introducing the two mayors to speak Pinkerton unveiled two memorial plaques (above photo) that will be placed on each side of the bridge.
Mayor McDermott (above photo) went on to thank INDOT, the contractors working on the project to finish the bridge ahead of schedule thereby less inconveniencing businesses that depend on the traffic flowing between the two cities. Acknowledging the project was "pushed" along by Governor Pence's office, the mayor of East Chicago and himself McDermott said, " we make great things happen in a short amount of time."
East Chicago Mayor (above photo with Mayor McDermott) spoke next said "...this bridge represents the...glue that combines the two cities together." Mayor Copeland said that he and Mayor McDermott are, "...stand here united as mayors saying that we know the economic costs that could have been suffered." Copeland symbolically said that crossing over the bridge will reunite the two communities that were severed while the work was being done, "...our communities will always stand as one and this bridge is a testament to that."
Just before the actual ribbon cutting, 4th District Representative Ed Soliday (above photo) praised the cooperation of the state saying, "...we've been able to get over $400 million more dollars this year to do projects just like this." Representative Soliday said that infrastructure is, "the key to our economy, key to great communities like East Chicago and Hammond."
(above photo: the ribbon cutting of the new nine span bridge in Hammond on Monday, December 9, 2013)
According to INDOT, the 1200 foot long new Nine Span Bridge was completed ahead of scheduled and opens to traffic today. The expedited reconnection of this link between the cities of Hammond and East Chicago is vital, as the Nine Span Bridge is one of the busiest north-south routes in the region. More than 20,000 vehicles a day use the bridge.
The original Nine Span Bridge, constructed in the mid-1930s, was one of the city’s most prominent landmarks. Portions from the iconic structure were saved and stored for future use on a trail project or other low traffic thoroughfare, if a community is interested in the next ten years.
Dunnet Bay Construction of Glendale Heights, Illinois was awarded the $18 million contract for both the bridge's demolition and the building of the new span..
For Nine Span Bridge demolition and construction pictures, videos, and more visit INDOT’s social media channels at http://www.YouTube.com/IndianaDOT, www.Facebook.com/INDOTNorthwest, and www.Twitter.com/INDOTNorthwest.
You can listen to the entire bridge dedication ceremony by selecting the News Audio On Demand link at: http://www.regionnewsteam.com
(photos/provided by Jay Stevens)