by Mitchell Kirk
The Cass County Highway Department is planning to demolish the more than 80-year-old, partially wooden Anoka Bridge that crosses the Winamac Southern Railway on County Road 250 South.
Cass County Bridge 203, commonly referred to as the Anoka Bridge, was built in 1930 and closed in 2004 after experiencing significant decay.
Jeff Smith, superintendent of the Cass County Highway Department, said the bridge has become a liability issue.
“Since the time it’s been closed we’ve been trying to figure out what we can do to eliminate it,” Smith said. “Obviously the longer it stands there, it becomes a liability and we don’t want that.”
Smith said the highway department is currently seeking quotes from contractors to have the bridge removed.
“Hopefully by next month we can award a quote and have a contractor get started on that and get that out of there by this spring,” Smith said.
Brad Ortman, operations manager at Winamac Southern Railway, said the bridge’s deterioration has caused pieces of wood to fall onto trains as they pass underneath the bridge.
“The thing is just obsolete,” Ortman said. “It can’t handle a very big load, it’s just falling in disrepair.”
Ortman also called the bridge an “attractive nuisance,” explaining that kids have been known to risk playing on it.
“The biggest thing from [the highway department’s] standpoint and our standpoint is that it’s a liability issue,” Ortman said. “It’s just no longer a useful structure.”
When the planned demolition gets underway this spring, Ortman said he wasn’t too concerned with having to shut down part of the railroad while crews work to remove the bridge.
“We’ll just work around the train traffic,” Ortman said. “We may have to delay it one day.”
When Smith gave an update on the project at a recent Cass County Commissioners meeting, commissioner Jim Sailors stressed the importance of accepting a bid that proposed a complete removal of the bridge.
“We don’t want any piers left up,” Sailors said. “We don’t want anything still sticking up in the air.”
Smith said the request specified the contractor would be responsible for removing all the parts of the structure except for the concrete pads on the ground that hold the wooden piers supporting the bridge.
After receiving permission from the Indiana Department of Transportation, Smith said the next step is to assess the bids coming in so demolition can begin this spring.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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