New Harmony Bridge Closed

Illinois State Police Trooper David Kiefer stands guard Monday on the Illinois side of the New Harmony bridge.

The New Harmony Bridge was shut down Monday afternoon, a day after the governing commission announced the venerable structure would close May 29.

A full review of engineer reports forced the White County Bridge Commission, which oversees the operation and maintenance of the 80-plus-year-old structure, to close the bridge indefinitely.

Shortly before 3 p.m., Illinois State Police announced the bridge was shut down as officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation posted “bridge closed” signs on Illinois Route 14. At the same time, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced the Indiana approach had been closed.

The four-span bridge had linked Route 14 in White County to Indiana 66 in Posey County. Only 20 feet wide, the bridge had a 36-ton load limit. A review of engineering reports from an April 29 inspection showed the bridge is so structurally unsound that keeping it open could place motorists at peril.

Now, farmers, farm service companies, oil producers and Illinois residents commuting to jobs in Evansville, Ind., will have to find alternate routes.

The bridge commission had decided to close the bridge at noon on Tuesday, May 29, after meeting in special session Sunday to hear the engineering reports. That meeting came on the heels of reports out of Indiana last week that the historic structure, which opened to traffic in 1930, was in peril.

The engineering inspection found that cross beams on the structure were deficient. Faced with repairs of in excess of $8 million, the board opted to close the venerable span.

Opened to traffic in 1930, the New Harmony Bridge came under commission governance in 1941, when Congress established a three-member commission. In 1998, Congress dropped the provision that would allow new members on the panel, meaning the current panel must remain if the bridge was to remain open.

The New Harmony Bridge was closed for a time during the winter of 2007-08 after an inspection found a crack in a support pier. Clsoed in September of 2007, the bridge was reopened in April 2008.

With the bridge closed, travelers must either use the Interstate 64 bridge south of Grayville or the Mt. Vernon Toll Bridge, which links Illinois Route 141 to Indiana 62 west of Mt. Vernon, Ind.

The commission says that over $49,000 in tokens to cross the span are outstanding. Funds will be deposited in area banks to cover refunds.

The closure of the bridge leaves 13 without work.