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Police and fire

Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
USI Consultants’ Ben Beer, left, and DeKalb County Highway Superintendent Eric Patton assess damage on the Spencerville Covered Bridge on Thursday morning. A tractor-trailer rig caused extensive damage to the span a day earlier.

Bridge repair bill could reach $300,000

The extensive damage a tractor-trailer rig did to the Spencerville Covered Bridge could cost as much as $300,000 to repair, a DeKalb County official said Thursday.

On Wednesday afternoon, a trucker crossed the historic wooden bridge that has a clearance of 12 1/2 feet, and his too-tall rig broke roof trusses throughout the structure, the sheriff’s department said.

County Highway Superintendent Eric Patton said engineers with USI Consultants Inc. of Indianapolis inspected the bridge Thursday. He expects to have a report from the engineers by today or Monday.

Patton estimated that fixing the bridge will cost between $100,000 and $300,000. While the county has insurance to pay for such repairs, Patton said he assumes the insurance for the trucker’s company will have to cover the cost. Whatever the case, he said, “It’ll be repaired and back to its original condition.”

Chief Deputy Gerald Kline said the trucker was driving for J.F. Freight Co. of Palatine, Ill., and that he was insured.

A J.F. Freight representative declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday.

Kline said the trucker was hauling an empty trailer to Nucor Fastener in St. Joe. In addition to exceeding the bridge’s height clearance, the rig was over the bridge’s 3-ton weight limit, Kline said.

The trucker, Gerard Hudson, 46, of Waukegan, Ill., told officers his GPS device had directed him to drive under the bridge, the sheriff’s department said.

Hudson appeared in court Thursday on a felony charge of criminal mischief. He also faces two citations for federal motor carrier safety regulation violations, court records show. He was being held at the DeKalb County Jail on Thursday in lieu of $1,500 bail.

According to the Indiana Historical Bureau’s website, the bridge has been in use since it was built in 1873. It underwent an extensive restoration in 1981 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places the same year, the site said.

The one-lane bridge that spans the St. Joseph River near Spencerville will be closed to traffic indefinitely, Patton said.