The Wood County Port Authority has a bridge to sell — give away, actually. The community or park system that agrees to take it can play a part in preserving an important aspect of our region’s history.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is moving ahead with plans to remove what once was the Toledo Terminal Railroad’s Upper River Bridge, a decaying former railroad bridge over the Maumee River that parallels the Ohio Turnpike.
The former Toledo Terminal Railroad’s Upper River Bridge runs beside the Ohio Turnpike over the Maumee River.
Built in 1902, the bridge is no longer usable, either for trains or a bike/pedestrian trail. CSX Transportation conveyed it to the port authority in 2011.
But the bridge has an interesting and significant history, which has led to a plan that could land it a new home where it can be appreciated by generations to come.
In 2009, ODOT’s Office of Environmental Services said the bridge’s swing spans were eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places because they are an example of an uncommon type of bridge.
ODOT and other agencies involved have agreed to an elaborate plan to preserve the spans before and after they’re removed later this year.
Before crews remove the spans a documentary survey of the bridge, consistent with Historic American Engineering Record standards, will be conducted. A commemorative plaque and display about the bridge and associated railroad will be placed nearby. Some elements from the bridge will be made available for use along the nearby Chessie Circle Trail.
Most importantly, though, the bridge will be available for reuse if an entity comes forward with an interest in reusing reusing all or part of this historic truss system.
So far, no one has come forward.
The bridge spans ought to be collected and reused by a community or park system in the region, so that they are not lost as too many historic structures are. They could create a fascinating public space that celebrates northwest Ohio’s contributions to transportation and design.
Part of the charm of Middlegrounds Metropark, which opened last year in downtown Toledo, is that its design celebrates the industrial heritage of its site along the Maumee. The downtown Toledo park stands on land between the river and Swan Creek, where railroads met the canal and industries developed.
Stepping up to accept the bridge spans is an opportunity for a park board or a city council to both preserve history and connect to it.
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