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Old bridge could get recycled, gain new life on Kankakee

April 2, 2009

By Charles M. Bartholomew

Post-Tribune correspondent

KOUTS -- For several years, Kankakee Valley Historical Society president John Hodson has been looking for a bridge as part of his plans for an educational/-recreational site at Baums Bridge .

Hodson purchased the abandoned Collier Lodge next to the river, hoping to restore the old hunting club, and partnered with Notre Dame anthropologist Mark Schurr to begin archaeological excavations there.

"I've been looking for a historic bridge, that we could move there and restore, like at Dunn's Bridge, to put over a section of the Kankakee that's still in its original state," he said.

Hodson thinks he may have found just the structure, designated Bridge No. 2, that carries Clay Street over the river in Lake County at Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park . The bridge is slated for removal as part of an INDOT project to rehabilitate another bridge downstream at the Indiana-Illinois state line.

He said he's met with Lake County engineer Duane Alverson, state engineers and legislators, and representatives of the Indiana Historic Landmarks Foundation

"I'm going to attend a state meeting on (Friday) in Indy to make our case. Nobody seems to doubt that we are the best fit and should not have any problem getting the donation of the bridge approved, but they still want to see me there," he said

"The state wants to build a new base for the state line bridge, raise the upper portion of it, and get rid of Bridge No. 2 in the same project," he said.

According to the engineering report by R.W. Armstrong of Indianapolis , Bridge No. 2 was built in 1920. The deck was repaired in 1991, and in 1998 the State Historic Preservation Office notified INDOT the bridge met criteria for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2006, two Lake County commissioners signed a memorandum of agreement with the state to offer the bridge to any approved entity or person for relocation.

"The key is, we can preserve it somewhere where it belongs," Hodson said.

He said his group would have to find money to move and install the bridge in Porter County .

"We're looking at a (Transportation Enhancement) grant. Lake County has indicated they may apply for us. ( Porter County Surveyor) Kevin Breitzke suggested floating the bridge up to us, since the river is pretty straight," he said.

Comment on this story at www.post-trib.com.  

Bridge swap could benefit historical society projects

April 13, 2009

By Charles M. Bartholomew

Post-Tribune correspondent

KOUTS -- A delay requested by an Illinois county official for a bi-state bridge project might benefit the Kankakee Valley Historical Society.

Society president John Hodson is seeking to have Bridge No. 2 over the river at Clay Street/Range Line Road donated for relocation to a planned education/recreation site for the Collier Lodge at Baums Bridge .

Lake County wants to replace the 89-year-old bridge and has proposed to rehabilitate Bridge No. 36 on the state line, which it shares with Kankakee County , as required mitigation for replacing Bridge No. 2.

"Until last week, everybody agreed that we're the perfect fit. It's a historic bridge, and it would be spanning a section of the river that's in its original state," he said.

Hodson and two other society members attended an April 3 engineering consultant's meeting in Indianapolis with federal, state, and Lake County officials and Jim Piekarczyk, Kankakee County engineer.

Piekarczyk told the meeting that his county had to be a party to any project involving the state line bridge, since jurisdiction is shared with Lake County , including signing a memorandum of agreement under which the bridge would be donated to the Historical Society.

According to the meeting minutes, he said that Kankakee County may not agree with rehabilitation of the bridge and may not be willing to sign the memorandum.

"He seemed to be miffed that he wasn't contacted about the meeting," Hodson said later.

Lake County Highway Superintendent Marcus Malczewski could meet with Piekarczyk to discuss any objections.

"This will give us time to work on some plans and grants to have the bridge moved," Hodson said.

Malczewski also said Lake County was willing to store the old Bridge No. 2 for up to 15 years to give Hodson time to find a way to move the structure and would give him first right of refusal if another applicant comes forward.  

No bridge funding for Porter, Lake counties

April 17, 2009

By Charles M. Bartholomew

Post-Tribune correspondent

LAPORTE -- Lake and Porter counties came up short Thursday morning as staff of the Indiana Department of Transportation's LaPorte District announced the forwarding of five bridge replacement projects to Indianapolis with favorable recommendations for federal bridge funds.

Among the projects are $1,032,000 for Bridge No. 198 over Carpenter Creek near Remington in Jasper County and $50,750 in additional funding for Bridge No. 34 on LaPorte County Road 500S over Miller Ditch, according to local projects assistance co-ordinator Marcia Blantsett. 

A final decision will be announced April 29.

 Blantsett said the money, which can be used only for construction and needs a 20 percent local match, will use up almost the entire $3 million that has been allotted for bridge work in the district.

 Not ranking high enough in terms of need were Porter County bridges No. 96 on County Road 250W over Salt Creek, No. 165 on County Road 600E over the Little Calumet River in Pine Township, and No. 93 on County Road 100W over Hall Creek in Porter Township.

Also turned down because $816,000 has already been approved for its replacement was Lake County Bridge No. 2 on Clay Street over the Kankakee River, which the Kankakee Valley Historical Society is seeking as a donation for its proposed recreational/educational park at Baums Bridge.

Blantsett told KVHS president John Hodson the project is tentatively scheduled for bid letting in 2011.

Historians want bridge relocated for use as teaching tool

By Jeff Burton
jeff.burton@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2225
| Tuesday, April 21, 2009

KOUTS | To some it may be an unsightly, rickety one-lane bridge, but John Hodson looks at the Kankakee River bridge at Range Line Road in southern Lake County and sees a masterpiece.

Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, said he'd like to see the bridge moved to an area near the historical society's Collier Lodge, which is located near Kouts in a preserved area where the river formerly flowed. Lake County officials have said the bridge needs to be replaced due to aging and increased traffic.

"The bridge would fit nicely," he said of the proposed move. "They want it to go to a group that will restore it."

Before being drained in the early part of the 20th century, the wetlands around the Kankakee River were a haven for waterfowl hunters from around the Midwest, with lodges surrounding the Baums Bridge area in southern Porter County .

Relocating the bridge near the lodge could provide an educational and recreational opportunity for the southern part of Porter County , Hodson said. The 174-foot truss bridge originally was constructed in the 1920s, shortly after engineers relocated the river.

"We have an opportunity to explain this history of the area, what happened when they straightened the river," he said. "It really devastated the ecosystem here."

Hodson and other preservationists have been working on obtaining the bridge for the better part of a decade. He said that bridge and another Kankakee River bridge at the state line are involved in a dispute between the states of Indiana and Illinois , as well as preservationist and conservationist groups.

Tentative plans call for restoring the bridge at the state line and replacing the bridge Hodson wants relocated near Collier Lodge. While the state line bridge has been closed for a number of years due to deterioration, people still fish off of it, and some conservation groups like the fact that traffic no longer flows over it, making the area more suitable for wildlife.

Hodson said he hopes the dispute will be settled soon and both bridges, which have been on the lists of endangered structures, will live on in some way.

Ultimately, he sees the restored hunting lodge and the bridge as the centerpieces of an area that could include a walking trail along the original river.

"It should fit almost perfect across here," he said. "I think eventually it will happen."





The Times video link to Range Lind Rd Bridge #2