Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

New Harmony Bridge's Fate Was Sealed by Congress 50 Years Ago

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

New Harmony Bridge's Fate Was Sealed by Congress 50 Years Ago

Article excerpt

The issues preventing Illinois or Indiana from taking over operation of the troubled New Harmony Bridge are, in many ways, the same problems that prevented a handover of the structure 50 years ago. Problems with the bridge and its management were laid out in excruciating detail in a June 1962 report prepared for a U.S. Senate Committee on Public Works.

First some history. The White County Bridge Commission was created by an act of Congress on April 12, 1941, "to purchase or otherwise acquire from its owners, and to maintain and operate a bridge across the Wabash River near the city of New Harmony, Ind."

The intent of Congress, according to the report was "to provide a means for eventually making the New Harmony Bridge toll-free. This objective is to be accomplished by authorizing the Commission to purchase the bridge from its owners with funds raised by the issuance of negotiable bonds and redeem these bonds with bridge toll revenues over a period of 20 years of creation of the commission."

The White County Bridge Commission bought the bridge in 1941 by purchasing for $895,000 all of the outstanding stock and bonds of the Harmony Way Bridge Co.

By July 1955, all of the outstanding bonds had been retired. In May 1955, the commission offered the bridge to both Indiana and Illinois to operate toll-free.

On June 7, 1955, engineers of the two states inspected and studied the bridge. By letter dated Aug. 9, 1955, officials with the Illinois Department of Public Works and Buildings advised the commission the study found "the bridge was not in sound structural condition and therefore did not meet the requirements of the statute under which Illinois could acquire such bridges." Officials with Indiana also declined to accept the bridge without Illinois' acceptance.

By December 1955, tolls were cut approximately in half, because the bonds had been paid off. …

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