TELL CITY, Ind. (WFIE) - The Perry County Port Authority received a big-time grant from the US Department of Commerce to finish two infrastructure projects.
The county received more than $4.5 million to replace two railroad bridges, project officials at the Port Authority say has been years in the making.
“They are both over 100 years old,” says General Manager Jared Kleemann.
Both the milepost 8.1 bridge over the Anderson River connecting to Spencer County and the 11.7 bridge in Evanston have needed a little TLC.
“We have to do annual repairs on them to keep them usable,” says Kleemann.
Now, however, thanks to a more than $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the necessary upgrades are coming down the tracks.
“The old wood is going, the structure is going away,” says Kleemann, “and then concrete and steel will be put back in its place.”
Kleemann says the new structure will be able to carry heavier cars, by as much as 11% of the current weight.
“The goal is, hopefully,” says Kleemann, “that our customers will have some reduced costs, be able to bring in the same amount of material with fewer cars.”
It’s not all about freight, however. Scenic railways departing from the Tell City Depot will also benefit from this grant.
“We have been just praying about it and hoping that it happened,” says Depot Director Betty Cash, “and for it to happen during a COVID time like this, we are very blessed.”
The connecting bridge between Perry and Spencer Counties will allow for much longer scenic rides for visitors.
“This is going to be an opportunity for us to provide what the passengers really want in their experience here,” says Conductor Logan Day, “a long, relaxing ride through two different counties.”
Even better news for Perry County, many of those passengers will need somewhere to stop, eat and shop.
Elizabeth Kohnert is the manager at The Pour Haus, a restaurant and bar just steps from the depot.
She says after rides, she sees quite a few customers come into the restaurant. Some are traveling as far as Ohio, Michigan, and even West Virginia. She says the increased tourism will only help her small-town business.
Something Cash with the depot says is perfect timing during the pandemic.
“All the puzzle pieces are falling into place at the right time,” says Cash. “It is going to be a beautiful puzzle for Perry County once this is done.”
In addition to the $4.5 million grant, Kleemann says the county also received a loan through the USDA for around $1.1 million, making the total award close to $6 million.