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County engineer makes bridge priority list

By John Estridge, Editor

Franklin County is much like Indiana and the federal government: A lot of the infrastructure is failing, but there is not enough money on hand to fix it.

Thus, county engineer Joe Copeland made out a priority list for the county’s bridges that extends through 2023.

He made the presentation to the commissioners at the Feb. 27 meeting.

This year much of the county’s money is going to work on the Sixth Street Bridge over the Whitewater River’s west fork.

It is a federal aid project, which means the federal government pays for 80 percent of the cost and the county puts in 20 percent. The money is funneled through the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).

The bridge will cost around $500,000 with the county paying 20 percent.

Traffic will be allowed on the bridge during the construction. It will be down to one lane with traffic lights.

Copeland has a list of 15 bridges and major culverts through 2023.

Accumulated costs for the county over that span is $3,78 million. Copeland estimates the accumulated cash the county will bring in for highway projects will be about $3.6 million.

Some interesting facts Copeland discovered in looking at the county’s bridges are the county has 118 bridges. Of the 118 bridges, there are a dozen bridges more than 100 years old. Of that total, a half dozen are considered historical bridges.

Historic bridges have federal and state rules all to their own which regulates exactly what the county can do to those bridges.

Two of the bridges are covered bridges with one being on Snowhill Road in the county’s southeast corner and the other on Enochsburg Road in the county’s southwest corner.

Somewhere between 22-24 of the county’s bridges are more than 50 years old.

Thirty-one of the county’s bridges have posted weight limits with the majority of the posted bridges having a 16-ton weight limit.

The county plans on applying for the state’s Community Crossing Grant. Franklin County received the grant in 2016 but was denied the grant in 2017, which led to the former county engineer leaving his post and the hiring of Copeland, who has held similar positions in Henry and Hancock counties.

With the Community Crossings Grant Program, the state pays for 75 percent of a project’s cost while the county pays 25 percent. This is for towns and counties with a population less than 50,000.

Counties can be awarded up to $1 million in projects.

Community Crossings Grant Program projects can be for bridge repairs or road repair including paving roads.

Commissioners have been discussing a large project on St. Mary’s Road a couple of miles outside Brookville before the Levee Road intersection. That project would include bank stabilization, paving and bridge repair.

That was one of the projects submitted to the state that did not receive funding. However, all the county’s submitted projects were rejected.

In other business regarding Copeland:

•He gave a lengthy presentation on the county’s facilities complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Copeland said he had to redo all of the county’s paperwork concerning ADA.

Among the items the county must do is put a plan in place for handling the public’s complaints about ADA accessibility.

At various commissioner meetings, some members of the public have complained about trying to attend nighttime meetings at the Franklin County Government Center. They have said the door at the ADA access to the building is locked at night.

Also, the sidewalk is in disrepair, and the door is heavy.

Copeland said much of the work in the county would involve sidewalks and entrances. However, the county does not have any money appropriated for the ADA compliance.

In Liberty, an ADA complaint by a resident who is in a wheelchair led to a federal order for the town to replace all of the sidewalks in the town. It was a multi-year project with costs divided between the town government and residents.