The Herald Bulletin

January 25, 2014

Editorial: New Eisenhower Bridge in Anderson needed for motorist safety

— Fifty-eight percent is not bad in some pursuits. In sports, for example, if a basketball player hits 58 percent of her shots or a tennis player wins 58 percent of his points, they're doing quite well.

But 58 percent can be a very bad mark when applied to other measures: For example, bridge safety.

Fifty-eight is the sufficiency rating, on a 0-100 scale, of the Eisenhower Bridge, which carries Eighth Street over the White River near downtown Anderson.

Many local folks use the Eisenhower Bridge at least once a day, and a rating in the 80s or 90s would be of much greater comfort than a 58. That number suggests your fate, when crossing the span, is somewhat up in the air — so to speak.

But local officials have a plan to rectify the problem. A new bridge is scheduled to be built in 2016 to replace the current structure, built in 1969.

While some will argue, with good reason, that structures built years ago were often built better, in the case of bridges, engineering has improved considerably. The new bridge promises to be safer and last longer than the old Eisenhower.

But it's going to cost us. The final bill is projected to be $15 million. Fortunately, Madison County's cost is a paltry (ahem) $3 million. County commissioners recently asked council to pony up $1.25 million for engineering and right-of-way purchase. The council has not yet ruled on the request.

The commissioners are still hoping to secure federal funds to defray the county's costs. That would be a great help, since the county's bridge fund generates only about $700,000 a year, and we have other bridges that will eventually need upgrades.

The new bridge will be an improvement over the current Eisenhower. It will be wider, with better-protected pedestrian walkways on both sides. Plus, it will straighten out the hump that sends eastbound motorists hurtling downhill.

Those who have crossed the Wheeling Avenue bridge in Muncie can vouch for the solid feel and pleasing aesthetics of that span. The new Eighth Street Bridge in Anderson will be similar.

Most importantly, the Anderson bridge project will give local motorists better peace of mind. These days, we'd settle for a 58 percent of sunshine. But we'd rather not settle for bridges that get low marks.