HELMSBURG — The bridge over Lick Creek on State Road 45 will be replaced this summer, forcing the closure of a section of the highway starting as early as Wednesday, May 4.
That date is not firm, though. Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said a delay in moving water lines may mean the stretch of road will close the second week of May instead.
“Unfortunately, this will probably push completion into fall — which was not our intent,” he said.
Through at least late August or mid-September, State Road 45 will be inaccessible to any vehicle from Lick Creek Road to three-tenths of a mile west of it — approximately, the top of the hill near 2700 State Road 45.
Drivers will not be able to get onto the highway at Lick Creek Road either; that intersection is part of the project site, INDOT reported.
Most vehicles will be detoured onto Lanam Ridge Road, which intersects with State Road 45 on the west end and Helmsburg Road on the east end.
That’s INDOT’s official local detour, for which it will reimburse Brown County for road maintenance, Brown County Highway Superintendent Mike Magner said.
Other local traffic can use Oak Ridge Road and West Dunaway Road to get to Lick Creek Road, then Cottonwood Road and Carmel Ridge Road to get back to State Road 45 on the west end of the closure.
The detours to get around that three-tenths stretch of State Road 45 are 4 to 8 miles long.
Multiple signs will be posted, Magner said.
If they don’t heed them, drivers unfamiliar with the area might end up on a winding, narrow gravel road with creek crossings, such as Plum Creek or Indian Hill.
“We want to put people where we want them, not where they want to go,” he told a room of emergency services providers April 20.
The highway closure had been scheduled to start as early as April 25, but after meeting with county officials, INDOT postponed it, county commissioner Diana Biddle said.
Among the reasons were concern about cutting Jackson precincts 3 and 4 voters off from their polling place at Helmsburg Elementary School for the May 3 primary; not enough notice being given to county residents and county officials; and final details, like utility relocation, not being finished, Biddle said.
Crews have been working for several weeks to clear trees at the site.
The existing bridge at Lick Creek will be demolished and replaced with a three-span, 100-foot-long continuous reinforced concrete slab, INDOT said in a press release.The work will cost $1.3 million. It’s needed because of the bridge’s age, Maginity said.
No “runaround” or temporary bridge will be built, Magner told the group of emergency personnel April 20. INDOT cited cost and regulations that even a temporary bridge be up to 100-year-flood standards, Magner said.
Not even firefighters and first responders will be able to drive through the work site to get to the south end of Lick Creek because the entire roadbed near the bridge will be removed; it will be used as fill, Magner said.
The new bridge will be at least four to five feet higher than the current one, he said.
Jackson Township firefighters and Brown County ambulance crews are working on plans to reach residents and visitors in the northwest corner of the county during the closure.Three summer camps are in that area. Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Chief Glenn Elmore estimated 400 to 1,200 campers are there any week of the summer; the fire station is on the opposite side of the bridge.
Brown County Schools Transportation Director Jeff Deckard said two school buses will be rerouted, one to Dunaway Road on the north detour and the other to Lanam Ridge on the south detour.
Magner said his crews would work on cutting back tree branches on Lanam Ridge that might hit larger vehicles, like semis, because they will need to take that route.
Businesses — such as summer camps — can post their own signs with INDOT’s local detour signs to help visitors find them, as long as they don’t interfere with sight lines, Magner and Biddle said.
Next summer, northern Brown County is scheduled for more repairs, on State Road 135 North just south of Railroad Road, Magner said.
Two bridges — over Little Blossom Creek and Mosier Branch — will need work that will require road closures, Maginity said.
Two additional bridge projects will be bid soon that involve State Road 135 in Morgan County; those also may occur next year.
“We want to have them doing their jobs,” Magner said about INDOT, “but we’ll just have to get through the pain in the meantime.”