Closed: New Harmony bridge
Canon PowerShot S95, 2019

This Wabash River bridge, the only link to Illinois from the remote, far-southwestern Indiana town of New Harmony, has been closed since 2012.

Opened in 1930, the Harmony Way Bridge was an important link between rural southeastern Illinois and commerce centers in southwestern Indiana. Privately owned at first, in 1941 the U.S. government bought the bridge and established the White County Bridge Commission to own and operate it. Always a toll bridge, it operated in the black. But it was not so profitable that it could receive the level of maintenance it began to need as the decades passed. Near-Herculean efforts to find deep funding sources never succeeded.

The bridge first closed in 2007 after inspectors found cracks in its support piers. Money was found somehow for the repairs and the bridge reopened in 2008. When a 2012 inspections revealed an additional $6 million in repairs, the owners couldn’t raise the funds.

Losing the Harmony Way Bridge was no small matter for the people of New Harmony and the surrounding area in Illinois. The nearest Wabash River bridge is on Interstate 64 to the north, a 12-mile drive on the Indiana side and a 13-mile drive on the Illinois side. That’s an inconvenience for residents for sure. But farm vehicles are prohibited on Interstates. Any farmer needing to cross the Wabash needs to detour almost 23 miles on the Indiana side, or 29 miles on the Illinois side, to reach a bridge to the south.

I drove across this bridge once. I had no real reason to visit Illinois from New Harmony, but I was curious to experience this narrow old bridge. The bridge runs slightly uphill until you encounter the overhead trusses. The deck is just 20 feet wide, which is mighty narrow by today’s standards. Oncoming cars felt awfully close as they passed. After passing through the bridge’s four truss spans, a long, flat approach span on the Illinois side ended at a toll booth where $1 was collected. That being that, I turned around and headed back. I had to pay another dollar to get back on the bridge. What price curiosity?

Several efforts have been made to reopen the bridge, including one currently underway, but none have borne fruit. Yet.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.


15 responses to “Will the Harmony Way Bridge ever reopen?”

  1. […] Will the Harmony Way Bridge ever reopen? […]

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Sounds like a candidate for Joe Biden’s infrastructure rebuilding plan. Hope they’re making their needs known to their locals senators and representatives.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Here’s hoping.

  3. tbm3fan Avatar

    Need a higher toll to bring revenue in line with costs otherwise you close.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Bankruptcy 101

  4. Melissa Avatar

    I cannot imagine any scenario in which the bridge reopens. I drove across it hundreds of times; including the day it closed.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s incredibly sad to think that this bridge will just sit there useless.

  5. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    That is beginning to happen here too in some areas….essential infrastructure reaching the end of it’s life with no thought having been given to funding replacements. Always seems to be the farmers who miss out. No matter, we can always eat money instead…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This is a weird case because of the unusual ownership of the bridge, but yes, overall we have crumbling infrastructure here too.

  6. Scott Huck Avatar

    New Harmony is a great place! I used to live in Evansville in the early 90’s and we went to New Harmony several times. We would naturally always drive from Evansville & back and never had the need to drive to IL from there. Sad to hear the bridge is closed!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My wife and I spent a long weekend there a few years ago. There was plenty to do and see!

  7. J P Avatar

    You have an economic conundrum. A $1 toll was clearly not enough to maintain the bridge. But a $100 toll would have had those same farmers screaming about being robbed, and the revenue might have been the same because of so many avoiding using the bridge. The trick is to find that toll that maximizes revenue. BUT, that amount, whatever it is, might still not have been enough to pay for maintenance given the remoteness of the area and the low level of usage.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yup. I also have a memory that there may have been constraints on the org that ran the bridge as to what they could charge. There were a number of ways their hands were tied. One of them was that they could not replace board members when they left. When the last one resigned or died, there would be nobody to run the thing.

      1. Michael Avatar

        That’s a bizarre form of planned obsolescence. What were they thinking??? While IN certainly has the funds to replace it, it sounds like it is the IL farmers that need it and quite unlikely that IL would foot the bill.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          It was strange all around. I can’t explain it.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: