New Cline Avenue Bridge Set to Open in 2019

EAST CHICAGO?? A new Cline Avenue Bridge will open to traffic in 2019, the CEO of the company building told the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

The bridge will have two lanes of traffic when it opens, Linda Figg of the Figg Bridge Group said. It will expand to four lanes if and when traffic on the toll bridge warrants it.

The 6,000-foot span will rise 100 feet above the Indiana Harbor & Ship Canal, following the same path as the demolished bridge it would replace. The original bridge was closed for safety reasons and condemned in 2009.

Figg said the new bridge, with an estimated cost of $140 million, will be built with appearance as well as functionality in mind.

“The long, open spans and sculptural pier shapes incorporate economy, low maintenance and aesthetics for a bridge that will last over 150 years,” she said.

Tolls for cars would be set in the $2.25 to $2.50 range, Figg said. Truck tolls haven’t been determined. All tolling will be electronic, using the transponders common to toll roads. Ten cents from each toll will go to East Chicago to fund city infrastructure projects.

Figg Bridge Group currently is finishing construction of an office building on Riley Road near the bridge site. Work also is being done on ground the bridge will span.

The building was supposed to be built last year, after a May 2016 groundbreaking, but slag and groundwater issues delayed it, Figg said.

“That’s why for a few months, you didn’t see anything going up on the sides of the building,” she said.

Concrete bridge sections, typically 60 to 90 tons each, will be fabricated on-site in a building Figg Bridge Group will construct. About 33,000 cubic yards of concrete will be needed, Figg said.

Twenty-eight “slender piers” will be accented with a “vibrant blue” vertical stripe.

The precast bridge segments will start being installed once 75 percent of them have been fabricated, Figg said. The fabrication building will be put up in coming months, and the forms for the casting are on order.

“There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes things taking place right now,” Figg said. “When we start putting up the segments, it will go very rapidly.”

She said the construction project would require about 300 local employees.

The project is being financed by United Bridge Partners, a private investment company funded by Figg Bridge Group and the investment firm, American Infrastructure Funds.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland said Figg’s presentation should convince project-doubters it was still on track.

“It was hard to convince them that this was going to happen,” Copeland said. “Thank you for helping me convince them.”

Wednesday’s chamber meeting attracted about 175 members and community leaders. It was held at Ameristar Casino, for which Cline Avenue is the main traffic approach.

“We’ve always been a big supporter of replacing the Cline Avenue Bridge in its current footprint,” Ameristar General Manager Matt Schuffert said. “We’re very excited.”