ALBION — It’s going to be a busy construction year in 2024, as Noble County received more than $6 million in federal aid grants for three bridge projects and a road realignment.
Indiana Department of Transportation federal aid awards for fiscal year 2025 were announced Monday, with Noble County getting money for all four projects submitted.
Noble County Highway Department engineer Zack Smith announced the awards to the county commissioners on Monday, just about an hour after giving them a brief update on the application progress.
“We’ve been awarded all four projects. My total is just over $6 million,” Smith said. “We’re definitely getting caught up. A majority of our local bridges will be taken care of. Now we’re looking at federal aid for the bigger ones.”
Kendallville also received a grant in the cycle for $3.6 million for the second phase of Drake Road.
The $6.14 million in county projects funded include:
• Bridge 134 — $2,721,000
The last of three steel-truss bridges that are more than 100 years old, the bridge on C.R. 225E spans the CSX Railroad line. The narrow, wood-deck bridge has a weight limit that limits traffic over it.
Noble County has previously removed one of the bridges and is in the process of replacing one other with a modern structure.
• Bridge 69 — $1,584,000
This bridge is located on Rochester Road (C.R. 750W) and crosses the Elkhart River east of Ligonier.
The bridge was built in 1971 but shows signs of structural decay, marking it in need of replacement due to beam cracks and movement of beams away from he main structure. The surface deck is also in need of repairs.
• Bridge 44 — $1,288,000
Located on C.R. 1050N, the bridge spans the channel that connects Jones Lake to Waldron Lake, just northwest of the West Lakes Boat Mart.
Aside from surface damage to the bridge deck, wear on the underbody of the bridge has exposed beams that have begun to rust and degrade. The bridge was originally constructed in 1968.
• Ball Road Curve Correction — $550,800
This project will realign a 90-degree curve where Ball Road meets C.R. 700W.
The area was the site of a triple fatality when in February 2019, a southbound driver slid through the curve and his vehicle went into the nearby Elkhart River. The car overturned and filled with water, leading to the driver and his two teenage daughter getting trapped inside and drowning.
After initially proposing a more drastic and expensive realignment to the road, a state vetting process determining the changes would be too expensive for the perceived benefit.
Smith resubmitted a second design to get the curve further away from the river, creating more clearance to prevent vehicles from potentially going into the water.
Funding for the three bridges is scheduled for Fiscal Year 2025, meaning construction could start as early as July 2024. Smith said the Ball Road project funding is for construction only to expedite the process, and that funding is scheduled for Fiscal Year 2023.
Smith said over the next four years, he’ll be saving up money in the county’s bridge fund to pay the county’s matching portion on the grants, which is 20% of the construction cost.
The Ball Road project has a different breakdown, with the grant covering 90% and the county only having to put up 10%.
“We’ll likely pump the brakes on any local funding so the bridge fund can catch up,” Smith said.
Commissioner Anita Hess called the grant awards “impressive” while Commissioner Justin Stump joked the grants will keep Smith busy for the next couple years.