TERRE HAUTE —
Sometimes it takes a political campaign to produce a public policy discussion that mirrors what people are really talking and worrying about.
The Eel River bridge on Indiana 46 between Terre Haute and Bloomington has been a cause of chronic safety concerns in recent years. It is currently closed, for the second time, pending structural repairs. That is causing significant inconvenience and lost time for travelers through southern Clay County and increasing maintenance issues on area county roads that are being heavily traveled as alternative routes.
Thanks to Democrat Jim Mann II, candidate for the Indiana House District 46 seat in the November general election, the Eel River bridge has become part of the political campaign landscape. It’s about time.
Earlier this week, Mann called a press conference to bring attention to the issue. Call it a political stunt if you like. So what? If Mann had the presence of mind to raise a legitimate issue that people care about, more power to him. Given the partisan and ideological garbage being spewed from all points on the political spectrum these days, this issue is refreshing in its relevance. And it is certainly nonpartisan.
Here is how Mann framed the issue:
“This is the biggest link between Vigo County and Monroe County. This is business, this is safety, this is schools, this is education. This is such a significant artery for the communities here.”
And it’s clearly not being dealt with in the most timely manner, although we will assume the Indiana Department of Transportation is doing the best it can with resources available.
Mann is correct in maintaining that a more long-term strategy is needed to deal with problems associated with these old bridges on major state roads. Repeatedly closing such bridges for a few weeks at a time for bandage maintenance when safety concerns arise is unfair to those who depend on these important thoroughfares. Wise management that takes into account public impact is needed. And that may well come higher up in the executive or legislative levels of state government.
We applaud Mann for being willing to insert this issue into his political campaign. We hope it doesn’t go away when the election is over.