A contractor specializing in covered bridges plans to spend most of the winter finishing the long-delayed rehabilitation of one of Jackson County’s two historic covered bridges.
The $1.1 million project to restore the 141-year-old Shieldstown Covered Bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, had originally been scheduled to be completed by July 31, 2016.
The double-span Burr arch truss bridge, built by Joseph J. Daniels in 1876, hasn’t carried vehicular traffic since 1980.
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Duncan Robertson Inc. in Franklin was awarded the contract for the project in early 2015, and a subcontractor removed the siding from the bridge along County Road 200N in Hamilton Township in the spring of that year.
The project then stalled for months because nearly 70 percent of the wood obtained for the sides of the 355-foot-long covered bridge couldn’t be used after failing to meet national historic preservation standards. Shingles purchased for the roof replacement part of the project also didn’t meet specifications.
This past summer, a push from the Indiana Department of Transpor- tation and District 44 Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, to get the project back on track succeeded, said Jerry Ault, superintendent of the Jackson County Highway Department.
Subcontractor Square and Level Construction in Bridgeton resumed work on the bridge Aug. 7.
That Parke County company, which specializes in covered bridge reconstruction, also completed a $1.3 million project to rehabilitate the Medora Covered Bridge in 2011.
Work is progressing well, and the bridge now looks better than it has in a long time, Ault said.
“The bridge is standing upright, and it looks fabulous,” he said.
Ault said Duncan Robertson has until July 2018 to complete the project, but Dan Collum with Square and Level Construction recently told him the work could be completed early next spring.
The current plan is to work all winter, weather permitting, Ault said.
He said the work of tuckpointing and cleaning the abutments on both ends of the bridge and the pier holding up the middle has been completed.
“Almost all of the timbers underneath that need replacing have been,” he said.
Some recent flooding of the East Fork White River forced workers to switch gears and begin installing siding on both sides of the bridge because Collum didn’t want to have the bridge jacked up during the flooding, Ault said.
“That’s so they could keep the project going while the water was up,” he said.
At that time, the west end of the bridge was sitting on temporary shoring in the river.
Ault said there’s a little more support work to be completed, and siding still has to be installed on the portals on each end of the bridge. The roof also will be replaced, and the approaches both will be redone.
He said there’s some work that will have to be done that requires temperatures well above freezing.
There’s also a logjam behind the center pier at this time, and it will have to be removed.
As a partner in the $1.1 million project, Jackson County is funding 20 percent of the costs. A National Historic Covered Bridge grant is funding the rest. INDOT administers the federal monies and assures compliance with federal standards.
Because of the delays, the county already has paid its portion of the project’s cost, Ault said.
“That’s why INDOT took over the project to keep the county from spending any more money,” he said.