The Herald Bulletin

February 24, 2014

County renews Eisenhower Bridge application

US Rep. Brooks can't voice support for project

By Ken de la Bastide The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON – Despite the old saying that the third time is the charm, Madison County officials are hoping their sixth application for federal funds for the Eisenhower Bridge in Anderson is successful.

The county has been turned down five previous times for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program to replace the 45-year-old span across the White River.

Madison County is spending $1,250,000 for engineering work, with $1 million coming through a grant from the Madison County Council of Governments.

The estimated cost of replacing the bridge has been set at $15 million with 80 percent coming from federal and state funds.

One of the factors in not receiving the TIGER grant funding previously is the lack of a letter of support from U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, whose husband, a lawyer, does work for the firm of Beam, Longest and Neff.

“The congresswoman is unable to provide a letter of support because her husband serves as part-time general counsel for a business that has performed work on the project,” Alex Damron, her press secretary, said. “She recognizes the importance of critical infrastructure projects and applauds the efforts of local officials to address community needs. However, she also recognizes that it’s very important for our elected officials to avoid potential conflicts of interest or appearances of impropriety when it comes to federal grant applications.”

Damron said Brooks serves on the House Ethics Committee, so her office pays particular attention to these issues.

County Engineer Chuck Leser told the Madison County commissioners Tuesday that an additional $600 million in TIGER grant funds will be announced in April.

‘We’re submitting another application,” he said. “The county would still have to pay 20 to 25 percent of the costs.”

Leser said the environmental studies to replace the bridge should be completed by March, which will help the county’s application.

“We hope the Federal Highway Administration and the Indiana Department of Transportation will look at the application favorably,” Leser said.

However, he noted, Anderson is competing for federal funding with cities across the U.S.

“There are more projects than funding,” Leser said. “We have to compete with other urban areas for public transportation project funding and bridges that carry more traffic.”

He said the county has been told it is moving up the list for possible funding and the Federal Highway Administration in Indianapolis has made the replacement of the Eisenhower Bridger a top priority.

Leser said there is an emphasis being placed on the local share of the funding for projects because some communities received a TIGER grant, but didn’t have the matching funds.

Because most of the property on the east and west approaches to the bridge is owned by Anderson and Madison County, there is no requirement for a public hearing to acquire right of way.

Plans for the new bridge call for the deck to be 83 feet wide, 10 feet wider than the current span over the White River. Also planned are a center divider to separate the east and westbound lanes, pedestrian walkways on both sides to include space for bicycles, and guardrails protecting walkers and bicyclists.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.