Historic bridges win attention as landmarks – think the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Mackinac Bridge in northern Michigan. They play the same role in small communities, recalling history and serving as functional works of art and engineering. The mammoth famous bridges likely don’t face the most common threat to small-town Indiana’s landmark bridges—oversized loads.
The Creek Road Bridge (a.k.a. Boone County Bridge #32) sustained severe damage in November 2016, when an unidentified operator drove an oversized piece of farm equipment onto the deck, severing several tension rods and leaving other structural components bent and twisted. Contractors estimate it will cost more than $250,000 to rehab the bridge, funds the county says it doesn’t have.
Built in 1910, the one-lane bridge carries traffic across Sugar Creek in a picturesque wooded area on County Road 350 West near Thorntown. A metal through-truss span from the early twentieth century, Creek Road Bridge belongs to a class of rapidly vanishing structures in Indiana. Its pedigree makes the bridge a candidate for the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012, the span was in poor shape, and Indiana Landmarks worked with Boone County officials to restore it with a new wood deck, new abutments, and repairs to its rusted steel frame. Working with Indiana Landmarks and the county government, a local grassroots group known as the Bridge 32 Preservation Committee is leading the charge to save the bridge again.
The Committee has established a fund for restoration through the Community Foundation of Boone County (CFBC), and welcomes donations at CFBC’s website. Click the brown “Donate Now” button and select “Bridge 32 Preservation Fund” from the dropdown menu labeled “Which Component Fund would you like to donate to?”
Outside of Zionsville, the Holliday Road Bridge (Boone County Bridge #207) suffered far more extensive damage in December 2017, when a tractor pulling a large disc attachment reduced the historic bridge to a twisted pile of metal. Fortunately, the tractor owner’s insurance will pay to reconstruct the 1892 span to its historic appearance.
Both bridges are classified as “select” in the 2010 Indiana Historic Bridge Inventory – a survey conducted to ensure Indiana’s older bridges receive appropriate protection during federally funded road construction projects. The inventory was developed in conjunction with a programmatic agreement between the Indiana State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and a group of consulting parties — including Indiana Landmarks – to streamline the process of evaluating and mitigating the impact of road construction on the state’s historic bridges.
A select classification means a structure contributes significantly to Indiana’s heritage of bridge engineering, design, and construction. Under the programmatic agreement, Boone County is obligated to restore both bridges according to the “most prudent” alternative, and the terms of the agreement strongly encourage historically sensitive restoration of select bridges.
The agreement sometimes allows the owner—often county government—to market a historic bridge for relocation, so the original structure can be restored and reused in another place. This allows construction of a new span in its place. Boone County officials have discussed relocation of the damaged Creek Road Bridge, but Indiana Landmarks and the Bridge 32 Preservation Committee hope to see it restored in its original location. To learn more about Boone County’s bridge preservation efforts, contact Sam Burgess in our Central Regional Office, 317-639-4534, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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