Crumbling Infrastructure: These 6 Indiana Counties Have the Worst Bridges

Written by Shanti Ryle
Updated: August 10, 2023
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Bridges are a crucial part of America’s infrastructure, spanning previously insurmountable gaps and connecting cities, states, and cultures. However, bridges require consistent upkeep and repair to function their best — and in some areas, like these 6 Indiana counties, government officials have yet to repair the bridges at their worst.

From unstable beams to broken concrete, crumbling bridges are at the least inconvenient and, at worst, dangerous to drivers. Read on to learn about the worst bridges in Indiana and why they’re in various states of disrepair.

Built in 1885, the Furnas Mill Bridge, a two span pinned Pratt through truss of wrought iron and steel, crosses Sugar Creek in Johnson County, Indiana.

While many of Indiana’s bridges function well, 5.4% of these structures require urgent attention from the county and state departments.

©Kenneth Keifer/Shutterstock.com

The Worst Bridges in Indiana

The state hosts over 19,000 bridges within its borders, with a grand total of 1040 considered in poor or worse condition as of 2022. While this number has decreased since 2018, which had over 1,200 bridges in need of serious repair, it still represents 5.4% of Indiana’s bridges.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 32 of these structurally unsound bridges are on Interstates, with another 2,028 with posted load restrictions. This means that vehicles of a certain size or weight may not be able to cross these bridges, which can impede intrastate travel and commerce.

Indiana state officials project that the cost to repair its worst bridges is about $1.4 billion, which accounts for the 1040 considered structurally deficient and an additional 2,682 that could use some repair.

1. Putnam County

Putnam County has over 50 bridges in poor condition out of the 290 structures in its jurisdiction. Per survey estimates, approximately 6443 square meters of road travel over unstable bridges putting driver safety at risk. When crossing some of these bridges, driving slowly and being aware of your surroundings is best. 

Many of the county’s nearly 300 bridges are over 50 years, which makes neglect the primary culprit for their worsening status. Some of the worst Putnam County bridges include:

  • Bridge 500N over Falls Branch Creek, which sees 1,875 daily crossings and officials consider intolerable.
  • The Dunbar Road crossing of Branch Big Walnut Creek supports 1,375 cars each day but is woefully in need of repair.
  • Bridge CR 150W over Deweese Branch Creek requires of high-priority corrective repairs, supporting about 1,150 cars each day.
Big Walnut Creek and the Oakalla Covered Bridge located east of Greencastle in Putnam County, Indiana.  Built in 1898

The Oakalla Covered Bridge crosses Big Walnut Creek, but fares much better than other structures spanning the gap.

©IN Dancing Light/Shutterstock.com

2. Marion County

Marion County is home to Indianapolis, the capital city of Indiana. While the county is home to just over 977,000 people, 946 bridges help residents and visitors alike cross local rivers, creeks, and canyons. 

Marion County hosts 48 bridges in poor condition, about 5.1% of total structures in the county. But some support high-trafficked areas, such as in central Indianapolis. Another 19.24% of local bridges are considered in need of repair or corrective action as of 2021. In 2022, the I-65 CD bridges over New York Street and Vermont Street finally reopened after years of sorely needed reconstruction. Good thing, too, as they need to support a combined 370,000 average daily crossings.

Some of the worst bridges in Indiana’s Marion County include:

  • The I-65 northbound and I-70 eastbound bridge crossing East Tenth Street sees over 82,000 travelers every day. Officials consider it structurally deficient and in need of repairs.
  • With more than 35,000 travelers crossing daily, the 30th Street bridge over White River is one of Marion County’s worst bridges.
  • The 16th Street bridge over Little Eagle Creek is considered intolerable by officials. It’s in need of urgent repairs, especially since it supports over 25,000 cars daily. 
Traffic signs indicating the directions to Nashville and Indianapolis on highway 65, viewed from under a bridge in Louisville, Kentucky.

The I-65 bridge in Indianapolis faced closures for nearly 4 years to finish repairs.

©Ivelin Denev/Shutterstock.com

3. Allen County

Allen County is the home of Fort Wayne, Indiana. It shares a border with nearby Ohio, just south of Michigan’s southern border. The county houses 607 total bridge structures, of which 44 stand in poor condition and over half (332) considered fair. 

In total, drivers must tread cautiously on approximately 13,200 square meters of unsteady bridge road in Allen County. When traversing these structures, driving slowly, watching nearby traffic, and wearing your seatbelt is essential.

Some of Allen County’s worst bridges include:

  • The I-469 bridge over Six Mile Creek, built in 1992, sees about 33,600 cars per day. Heavy-loaded truck traffic represents about 24% of the crossings.
  • The Progress Blvd bridge over Spy Run Creek was last inspected in 2020 and seriously needed fixing, especially with a traffic count of 15,000 cars daily.
  • Tillman Road’s crossing of Highland Drain 4 is nearly 70 years old but still sees a healthy 12,000 crossing daily, despite its dire need for repairs. 
Wells Street Bridge and rain storm flood at the St. Marys River, Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana

The Wells Street Bridge in Allen County, Indiana nearly experienced flooding during recent storms.

©NayaDadara/Shutterstock.com

4. Parke County

Parke County was founded in 1821 along the Wabash River, located in the western part of Indiana. The county seat, Rockville, is its most populous town. Parke County’s population is roughly 16,156 as of the 2020 census. It is accessible to the rest of the state via Route 36 and Route 41.

Ironically, Parke County prides itself as “The Covered Bridge Capital of the World,” with 31 charming covered bridges drawing many visitors yearly. However, despite these tourist attractions, 34 of Parke County’s functional bridges stand in poor condition. Another 115 experts assess as in fair condition.

Some of the worst bridges in Indiana’s Parke County include:

  • The county route 900s crosses Spring Creek, which was first built in 1941 and sees about 908 cars each day. 
  • Bridgeton Road’s spanning over Williams Creek was built in 1945, featuring a deck geometry considered intolerable. 
  • The New Discovery Road bridge, also over Williams Creek, is more than 100 years old, built in 1900, and seriously needs repair. 
Cox Ford Covered Bridge, built in 1913, crosses Sugar Creek along the west edge of Indiana's Turkey Run State Park.

Many of Parke County’s bridges are decades, even centuries old, and need structural repairs.

©Kenneth Keifer/Shutterstock.com

5. Lake County

Lake County is Indiana’s second-most populated region after Marion County, home to 489,700 people as of the 2020 census. It’s part of the larger Chicago metropolitan area, despite being located in the northwesternmost tip of Indiana. 

Lake County’s sprawl of urban to rural areas means many bridges county-wide are in need of repair. Approximately 31 out of 297 are considered to be in poor condition, spanning over 26,000 square miles of crossings. 

Some of the worst bridges in Lake County are:

  • The I-90 crossings over 129th Street in both directions are in need of serious repair, carrying over 18,000 travelers on average daily.
  • The 45th Street over Hart Ditch Bridge sees over 16,000 cars daily and is considered structurally deficient as of its most recent inspection.
  • Crossing Lake George, the Wisconsin Street bridge was recommended high priority for repairs and is structurally unsound. 
One of the many bridges that crosses the river in Chicago

Lake County is a part of the larger Chicago metropolitan area, with many bridges requiring engineering attention.

©Ruben Martinez Barricarte/Shutterstock.com

6. Crawford County

As of the latest census data, the tiny Crawford County lies in southern Indiana and is home to 10,526 people. Spanning about 308 square miles, Crawford was founded in 1818 and is thought to be named for Col. William Crawford, who fought in the French and Indian War.

Inspectors considered more than 39% of the 123 bridges in Crawford County to be in poor condition and require corrective action. Another nearly 23% were evaluated as structurally deficient in their most recent inspections, which occur every 12 months.

Some of the worst bridges in Indiana’s Crawford County are:

  • The Alton Road bridge over Mill Creek, which sees over 500 cars each day, is projected to cost $1,850,000 to repair.
  • Beasley Road’s crossing of Camp Fork Creek is considered to be in intolerable condition, requiring urgent fixes to support its estimated 460 travelers each day.
  • The Mifflin West Fork bridge over Reasor Branch supports another 400 cars daily, but its deck geometry – essential to its structural integrity – requires serious repair.

Summary of the 6 Indiana Counties That Have the Worst Bridges

These 6 Indiana Counties Have the Worst Bridges:

RankCounties
1Putnam County
2Marion County
3Allen County
4Parke County
5Lake County
6Crawford County

The photo featured at the top of this post is © IN Dancing Light/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Shanti Ryle is a content marketer with nearly a decade's experience writing about science, real estate, business, and culture. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Global Finance and Banking, Weedmaps News/Marijuana.com, and other publications. Her favorite animal (by far) is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi!

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