Mike Corcoran lives in Perrsyburg Township, but he often drives to Waterville to shop or visit relatives.
Consequently, Mr. Corcoran’s main thoughts about how the Ohio Department of Transportation should go about replacing the Waterville bridge are clear: The state should choose “one of the two [options] that doesn’t shut the bridge down the whole year.”
That would mean either building a bridge immediately next to the current one carrying State Rt. 64 over the Maumee River, or a bridge that angles away from the 1948-vintage span and connects to Farnsworth Road in Waterville instead of Mechanic Street.
A third alternative ODOT presented late Thursday afternoon to an open-house meeting at Waterville Primary School is to replace the structure on its current alignment. But that would close the river crossing for close to a year, if not longer.
“We have family in Waterville. We do business in Waterville. This would be a huge inconvenience,” said Mr. Corcoran, one of more than 200 people who turned out for the meeting.
Even closing the bridge for a month or so while a new one next to it is tied in “would be a lot better than 17” months, he said.
Project planners who answered questions and took comments during the two-hour meeting said they heard a mix of preferences from participants.
Most favored the options Mr. Corcoran prefers, they said, but a few — mostly from the Waterville side — who’d rather have the bridge stay where it is even if that shuts it down for a while.
Carol Mason of South River Road said she favors the option linking to Farnsworth because businesses on that street have off-street parking while many on Mechanic don’t.
ODOT’s plans call for new left-turn lanes wherever Route 64 intersects River Road, at the expense of curbside parking.
“My concern is how it will affect business owners in the immediate area. Choose the one that’s least disruptive,” Ms. Mason said.
Waterville Police Chief D.A. LaGrange, meanwhile, said Route 64 should stay on Mechanic because rerouting it would concentrate traffic on Farnsworth between River and Anthony Wayne Trail, congesting that street.
And some people, particularly on the Wood County side, don’t want ODOT to do anything at all.
George Thompson, who lives in Holland but owns farmland in Middleton Township along Route 64, asked meeting-goers to sign petitions opposing the project on the grounds that the bridge is in sound condition and that a roundabout ODOT proposes just east of the bridge would be “space-wasting and dangerous.”
Mr. Thompson and Gordon Wenig, a Haskins resident whose mother owns farmland near Mr. Thompson’s land, accused state officials of hiding future plans to convert the new bridge’s shoulders and sidewalks into additional lanes, widening Route 64 to four lanes through downtown Waterville, and building a direct connector across northern Wood County to I-75. Mike Gramza, ODOT’s district planning administrator in Bowling Green, denied that.
“The first time I’ve heard about that is tonight,” he said. “There’s no intent to build anything other than a two-lane bridge to the current standards.”
The transportation department will review comments from the meeting, or written to the Bowling Green office through April 10, and announce a “preferred option” for the bridge project later this spring.
Construction is expected to cost between $18 million and $21 million and start in 2017.
Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.