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DIGGING DEEPER: Bridge disasters elsewhere play role in delay of new PFW pedestrian bridge

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – A transportation official says two deadly bridge collapses earlier this year — one in the U.S. and one in Europe — are a contributing factor to delays in opening a new bridge in north Fort Wayne.

If you drive on Coliseum Boulevard along the Purdue-Fort Wayne campus you go right under the Cole Parker Crossing Bridge.

Groundbreaking on the $4.5 million structure took place all the way back in April 2017, and it was supposed to open to walkers and cyclists this past June.

It’s December and it’s still not open and now we know it could be spring or summer before the public gets to cross.

Purdue Fort Wayne freshman Deniro Brinker recalls traffic backups happening on Coliseum during construction.

“You barely see any construction workers working on it as of now, so you’re like, what’s the problem?” Brinker said.

The main purpose of the bridge is to provide a way for students that take classes at both Ivy Tech and Purdue Fort Wayne to cross over Coliseum Boulevard without having to interact with cars and trucks on the roadway.

The bridge likely would have been open before, if not for some high profile tragedies involving bridges in other locations.

In March, the Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapsed while under construction, killing five motorists below and a worker who’d been standing atop the span.

Then in August, in Italy, a bridge for cars and trucks came crashing down during a torrential rainstorm, the death toll topping 40 people.

“We’ve had some catastrophic news about bridges in other areas of the country and the world,” said Nichole Thomas with INDOT.

The transportation agency says it wants more time to carry out additional structural tests on the Fort Wayne bridge.

Nichole Thomas says the bridges that fell down are very different from the pedestrian bridge here, but INDOT wants to go the extra mile.

“This is just one more level of added scrutiny to ensure that everyone above and below is as safe as can be,” Thomas said.

Purdue Fort Wayne officials would love to see the bridge become operational, but in this case, they prefer to exercise patience.

“We’ll be excited when it opens and it will be great for all of us, it will be great for our students, and as we said, we’re following INDOT’S lead because safety is the number one priority,” said Nicole Hahn with the university.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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