Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 01 November 2013 10:14
Five Wood County bridges will benefit from the first round of a $120 million Ohio Department of Transportation project to fund the replacement or repair of the structures throughout the state.
|A truck passes over bridge on Mermill Road just east of St. Rt. 25 south of Portage. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The bridges are among 40 statewide to receive attention in 2014, the first year of the project. More than 200 county bridges and 20 city bridges are expected to be repaired or replaced during the course of the initiative, according to a press release.
"This is a new era for ODOT to partner with local governments and to deal with these kinds of safety issues in a more profound way," State Sen. Randy Gardner (R - Bowling Green) said in an interview this morning.
"There's obviously tremendous need in a region that's the Great Black Swamp," he said later.
The bridges to be attended to in Wood County during the first wave of the project are:
• at Henry/Wood County Line Road over Brush Creek in extreme southwestern Wood County.
• at Liberty Hi Road southwest of Portage.
• at Mermill Road, over Ditch 2172, just off Ohio 25.
• at Jerry City Road near West Millgrove.
• at Bradner Road, over Hendy Ditch, in the northeastern portion of the county.
"It's a Christmas present as far as I'm concerned," said Wood County Engineer Ray Huber of the project.
"If ODOT picked them, they are in need," he said of the bridges, noting that his office did not have a hand in the selection.
According to the release, ODOT, which previously had a $1.6 billion budget deficit, "tightened its own belt and was able to free up more than $600 million" during the first 18 months of Gov. John Kasich's administration. Leveraging of the turnpike assisted in generating an additional $1.5 billion.
"Innovative thinking and careful management of precious resources is why we can do this $120 million program to help counties and cities meet their bridge needs."
ODOT began working with the County Engineers Association of Ohio on plans to help counties improve the bridge infrastructure earlier this year. The release noted that "Ohio's bridges are better than national averages in most reports on bridge conditions," but "we still have many bridges that are waiting for much-needed repairs."
The Bridge Partnership program will fully fund the work on the 200 bridges over approximately three years. None of the bridges are part of ODOT's interstate or state highway system.
To be chosen as part of the program, bridges had to be more than 20 feet long, in accordance with federal bridge definitions; must be "structurally deficient," an engineering term meaning that the bridge, while safe, still needs repair; and must be currently open and carrying traffic.