Preservation, Road Trips

The demolition of the Lafayette Road bridge over Eagle Creek

This concrete-arch bridge was in sorry, sorry shape.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

It had carried Lafayette Road across Eagle Creek in northwest Indianapolis since 1925. The southbound lanes had, at any rate; the bridge was widened to add northbound lanes in 1935. But in 2009, when I took these photos, it had been neglected for a long time.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

I think neglect was the plan. When Indianapolis merged with the rest of Marion County in 1970, there was no money to maintain all the infrastructure the city had just taken over. A few years earlier, this bridge was the state’s problem: it was part of US 52. But the state had routed that highway along nearby I-65 when it opened, and relinquished Lafayette Road to the county. And then it became the city’s problem.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

The city’s neglect ended up working out: federal funds became available to pay for most of this bridge’s replacement. Maybe that was the idea all along, because maintaining this bridge properly would have been all on the city’s dime. At any rate, the city demolished this bridge in March, 2009. I documented the whole thing in photographs.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

Several of those photos showed how this one bridge was actually two. You can see it in the arches. To build a concrete-arch bridge, a wooden formwork is first built on the site and concrete is poured into it to create the arch shape. The wood planks of the formwork leave their mark in the arch. Notice how this arch has a medial seam, showing that two formworks were used to build this bridge. The 1925 portion of this bridge is farthest away; the 1935 portion nearest.

Old US 52 bridge demolition, week 2

Old US 52 bridge demolition, week 2

The bridge’s deck was the first thing to go. Notice that the space between the deck and the arches was filled with soil! The 1925 portion of the bridge — with its former outer wall — is on the left. Notice how it’s narrower than the 1935 portion. The 1925 road was probably only 16 feet wide, a common road width then. But in the 1935 widening, the road was more than doubled in width, and the 1935 portion of the bridge reflects that.

Week Three

Week Three

Next they removed the arches one by one. I walked right out onto the bridge during demolition to take these photos. I can’t believe there wasn’t more security in place to prevent such things!

Week Four

And finally, the bridge was gone. The road remained closed for most of the year while a new bridge was built.

Traders Point, Indiana

Traders Point, Indiana

Here’s that new bridge today. As you can see, it has no arches; it’s a modern and unremarkable steel-stringer bridge. At least the railings are somewhat interesting. It’s altogether too common to use plain Jersey barriers as bridge railings today.

It’s sad that the old bridge was left to rot as it did. I’m all for saving old bridges. But the new bridge is wider, which makes it able to include bike lanes. Lafayette Road has them all the way to the county line. I think that’s a win.

Longtime readers with great memories might remember that I wrote about this demolition while it happened. See those posts here, here, here, and here.


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