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Thursday January 23, 2020

draw bridge solutions sought

Thursday, October 03, 2019 17:40 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

Officials are groping for ways to keep drivers from trying to cross the draw bridge in Michigan City as its about to be raised.

''It's just getting to be a huge issue and we're trying figure out other ways to slow them down and stop them,'' said Bob Young, the La Porte County Highway Department superintendent.

Officials are not sure why such a dangerous practice has become such a problem lately but feel it might stem from a significant increase in traffic at the lakefront this year testing the patience of drivers.

The main entrance to the lakefront is over the 87-year old span.

Extended quarter mile back-ups to U.S. 12 can easily result until sailboats pass underneath and the bridge goes back down.

Young said a horn blares, lights flash and crossing arms drop before the bridge starts being raised.

He said drivers familiar with the timing of the bridge are probably the ones more willing to take a chance.

''If they can shoot that first gate they know they can gas it and get off,'' Young said.

On August 2, an Ohio couple in an SUV found themselves on the bridge as it was going up.

The vehicle ended up sliding down and getting wedged in the gap at the bottom of the raised bridge and pavement.

Nobody was hurt.

It cost $192,000 to fix a couple of holes in the bridge deck and realign gears knocked out of place by the accident, La Porte County Council president Randy Novak said.

Another $4,100 was just spent fixing a crossing arm broken after it landed on the bed of a truck attempting to pass underneath it.

At least one other driver approaching the bridge has recently ignored the warnings, officials said.

La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias said national park status granted to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was a factor in more people this year flocking to the lakefront.

Matias said some of those visitors from well outside the area might not know how to react if they've never encountered a working draw bridge.

She said the answer for their safety could be additional signage and signals earlier in the approach so they're not caught completely off guard.

''Our bridge is old but it is part of the character of our lakefront and we've certainly invested significant dollars into making sure it stays serviceable so having accidents from people trying to beat the bridge is certainly not in anyone's best interest,'' she said.




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