Fall semester classes began Monday at Purdue University Fort Wayne and Ivy Tech, but students will have to wait a bit longer before they can use the pedestrian bridge that connects the two campuses.
The Parker-Cole Crossing bridge over Coliseum Boulevard is still undergoing testing to ensure its safety, according to Nichole Thomas, a state transportation department spokeswoman.
“There is not a specific timeline for opening,” she said Monday. “The last thing we issued was the hope it would be open by August. That hope has not come to fruition.”
The bridge was initially set to open in August 2018, but tension testing of the bridge's cables gave inconsistent readings.
They were believed erroneous because of the structure's unique and complex design, Thomas said.
Nonetheless, the decision was made to add a pier to the bridge to add what structural engineers call redundancy – the ability of a bridge to carry an extreme load and withstand adverse conditions, such as high winds.
That change is now being tested, Thomas said. Some of the last construction steps are also being finished, including installing railing and LED lighting, she said.
Hundreds of thousands of LED lights were planned for the bridge to allow it to change color at night, like the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge on Clinton Street.
Even though the bridge connects two campuses, it is owned by the state because it's over a state highway, Thomas said.
“No. 1 for us is safety in that the last five bridge collapses have been pedestrian bridges. It certainly weighs on our mind,” she said.
The goal is that the bridge will exceed state and federal standards for safety, Thomas said. However, that's not as simple as with other bridges because the bridge is a one-of-a-kind design, she said.
“It has a lot of eyes on it,” she added.
The bridge was estimated to cost about $4.5 million, but the final cost is unknown, according to Thomas.
The state transportation department was to pay 80% of the cost, with the rest, including any cost increases, shouldered by donations from the Olive B. Cole Foundation and Mac and Pat Parker of Fort Wayne.
When construction began in 2017, 1,000 students were estimated to travel between the two campuses each day.