Starke County crews inspecting all bridges

STARKE COUNTY, Ind. -- Starke County's Highway Department has a new checklist for bridge inspections and it came at just the right time. On Monday, crews closed bridge 27, off 400 East, after finding cracks and a broken pillar.

The Highway Department wants to be proactive. There are 58 bridges in the county - and 16 of those are structurally deficient.

Most drivers don't even think twice about driving over a bridge.

But what if that bridge has problems that can't be seen?

"They're going to come do an underwater inspection when the water level goes down, because it's a little dangerous to do it now," said Rik Ritzler of the Starke County Highway Department.

Within the last two weeks, the county highway department has started inspecting bridges on their own time.

That proactive approach led them to bridge 27 where they noticed several cracks and flaws.

They still have dozens of bridges to inspect.

Starke County saw an increase of farmers in the late 1800s. Those farmers turned what used to be a marshland into creeks and rivers. With that, came the need for bridges, many of which are still standing today.

"Any bridge that needs to be closed or is not safe to go over - is closed at this time," said Ritzler.

For drivers in Starke County, that provides a sense of relief. Many drivers hope the new inspection process finds issues before they become dangerous.

"It's scary to think you could fall through the bridge or something," said driver Martha Poorte.

"I pay taxes, I definitely want to see the bridges kept up in good repair," said driver Will Smith.

Crews say they have a plan to fix all of the county's deficient bridges within five years. They're working to secure state and federal funds to make that happen.

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