Indianapolis' crumbling bridges face delayed repairs


We drive them every day, but underneath and out of plain sight some city bridges are crumbling. It's prompted millions of dollars in repairs.

13 Investigates has discovered delays both for drivers and companies trying to get the work done.

Mid day in downtown Indianapolis, and traffic spills from the top of the Meridian Street Bridge over Fall Creek. Unsuspecting drivers have no idea what's ahead.

"I was surprised, because I don't know my way around very well and now I'm stuck in traffic," said one out of town driver.

"It's terrible, especially this stretch. I believe it's because there's construction going on here," said another local driver, inching along.

It's not just any construction, but a massive bridge project expected to bring drivers to a standstill over the next eight months.

For the city, there is no other way around the costly fix to the Meridian Street Bridge.

"We actually had a lot of bridges that were in really bad shape," said Kara Brooks, Communications Director for the City's Department of Public Works.

The city is spending $3.8 million to preserve the historic pillars on the bridge and to make improvements to keep pedestrians and cars from falling through the cracks.

"You're talking about thousands of cars traveling these bridges every day to get to their destinations, so it's very important that we keep these bridges safe," said Brooks.

There's also high pressure at 56th Street over the Eagle Creek Reservoir.

That stretch near Eagle Creek Park was supposed to be done last November as part of a five-month renovation project, costing the city more than a million dollars.

Now down to two lanes, crews are playing catch-up.

"The contractor had to do some sewer work and so they had to relocate sewers from one side of the road to the other," explained Brooks, who said the work is now expected to be completed by June.

On the southwest side, the Morris Street bridge over White River reopened to traffic in January, but is still not complete. Work started in the fall of 2010.

"We tore everything down to the arch and rebuilt it back up," explained worker, Clinton Coffey. I"m glad nobody got hurt in the process," he said of the major undertaking.

The nearly 10,000 commuters who use Morris Street every day likely had no idea how dangerous the bridge had become.

"A big truck could drive over it and you could see like pieces of concrete just falling down," said Coffey, who also noted holes that he could see through from top to bottom.

The overhaul price tag for that bridge: between $6 million and $7.5 million.

The work was supposed to be done back in December, but DPW says high river levels caused delays. Now the bridge itself is being waterproofed through a special process.

"The work that we're doing right there is actually something that will help to prevent further maintenance for the bridge for the next 30 years," Brooks told 13 Investigates.

Eighty percent of the bill for the Morris Street Bridge will be paid for with federal funds, leaving the remaining 20 percent for the city to cover with local dollars. The last touches will be made on that bridge in July.