Residents: Chunks of concrete falling off aging railroad bridge

Elwren bridge concerns

MONROE COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — Chunks of concrete are falling from an aging railroad bridge onto a busy roadway, residents in southwestern Monroe County said.

The concrete stringer bridge above West Elwren Road, approximately 10 miles southeast of Bloomington, was built in 1917.

Cracks are evident on both sides of the bridge. Several slabs of adjacent concrete no longer appear to fit together. At least one bar of reinforcement steel is exposed and bent.

Rick Moser, a resident who said he once pulled over to push a “200-pound piece of concrete” off the roadway, described the bridge as a “catastrophe waiting to happen.”

“You can see daylight through the cracks in the bridge,” he told News 8. “What if that concrete fell on me? Or my wife? Or any of my neighbors driving by?”

Barbara Bowlen, a neighbor who had lived in the community for 46 years, said school buses drive under the Elwren Road bridge every day. Morning pickups often coincide with a train route, she added.

The weight of passing trains causes loose gravel and debris to “rain down” from the bridge, according to residents.

They urged rail officials overseeing the bridge to take a preventive approach, rather than a reactive one, and pushed for “crumbling” infrastructure to be replaced before an accident happened.

Chris Blake, another longtime resident, said he had “never seen any [repairs] done to this overpass” in 20 years. Although he was apprehensive about driving underneath it, taking an alternate route would add at least 15 minutes to his commute, he said.

Indiana Rail Road Company representatives did not immediately respond to calls and emails from News 8 seeking comment.

The bridge had been inspected in late spring and was deemed safe for use, local authorities said. Inspection reports were not made public.

Deteriorating conditions observed Tuesday by News 8 had been present during the inspection — and for several years prior — according to Moser, Bowlen, Blake and other residents.