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Chicago wants Indiana's Cline Avenue Bridge rebuilt

The entrance to the Cline Avenue bridge, closed off in 2009. (Shawn Allee)
Two years ago the state of Indiana closed the Cline Avenue Bridge that runs through northern Lake County.

It served as a convenient by-pass off the Indiana Toll Road through Hammond and East Chicago, moving traffic quickly to casinos and points south. But structural problems long dogged the bridge and in 2009 the Indiana Department of Transportation abruptly closed it. Crews could start demolition work later this fall.

Drivers and nearby cities have complained about the bridge's demise because alternate routes clogged commercial and neighborhood streets.

Turns out, the city of Chicago hasn't liked the Cline closure, either.

Chicago has a stake in the success of the Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary. Each year Chicago contributes a few million dollars to support the airport through a compact between the two entities. Gary airport is currently undergoing a $160 million project that involves extending the primary runway.

"The Chicago Department of Aviation supports the expansion of the Gary-Chicago airport and so it certainly would support the rebuilding of the Cline Avenue Bridge," Karen Pride, spokeswoman for the Department of Aviation for the City of Chicago, told WBEZ on Friday. "Rebuilding the bridge will ensure quick, direct access to the Gary Chicago airport and better access to the airport is critical for its success toward connecting travelers and airlines,"

The Indiana Department of Transportation is now floating the idea of rebuilding the Cline Avenue bridge as a toll road.

The toll idea is getting mixed reviews by business owners and residents of Lake County who would likely pay to use a rebuilt bridge. 

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has said two companies have expressed interest in rebuilding the bridge, but only as a toll road. He says, minus private investment, the state's price tag to rebuild the bridge may be too steep.

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