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Published: Thursday, 10/3/2002

Wraps come off bridge razing date

The explosive demolition of what remains of the old Maumee-Perrysburg bridge is tentatively set for 10 a.m. Sunday, the Ohio Department of Transportation announced yesterday.

State officials previously said they would not disclose the time for the explosion until three hours before it happened to discourage crowds from gathering to watch. But so many rumors had started about when the big boom would occur that state officials decided it would be wiser to release the tentative schedule.

“Our whole goal has been to try to keep crowds under control for safety,” Richard Martinko, ODOT's district deputy director, said. “With so many rumors going around, we decided it would be better to tell people when we plan to do it so they won't go down to the site every day.”

Sunday morning is not a certainty, Mr. Martinko cautioned. Permits from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that only can be issued to contractor Mosser Construction shortly before the demolition need to be secured, he said. And if rainfall between now and then causes the Maumee River to rise, it could be postponed.

Two hours before the demolition, a safety perimeter will be set up around the bridge. A 500-foot strip along either bank of the river, extending from 1,000 feet upstream to 2,000 feet downstream, will be cordoned off, and the river itself will be closed to boaters.

ODOT spokesman Joe Rutherford said the affected area is bounded roughly by Harrison Street in Maumee, Front Street in Perrysburg, Fort Meigs on the upstream side, and Audubon Island on the downstream side.

Streets to nearby churches will remain open, though the faithful could find themselves competing for on-street parking spots with bridge gawkers.

There may not be much to see. The bridge has been extensively dismantled, with its walls, deck, and fill material removed. All that remains are the concrete arches over the water, and they will be shrouded with protective blanketing to control the explosion.

Scheduling the demolition for the weekend marks a shift from what ODOT said last week it would do. At a meeting Sept. 25 in Maumee, state officials said it would occur on a weekday to reduce potential crowds.

But Mr. Rutherford said after the meeting, Maumee schools Superintendent Greg Smith asked the department to consider a weekend date because of the distraction that school-day scheduling would create for pupils at a nearby school and their parents.

Scheduling police to provide security during the weekend, including the Toledo police helicopter to check the river before the explosion, may have compromised ODOT's ability to keep the demolition date secret.

“When you have to start mobilizing people for overtime, it's hard to keep it confidential,” Mr. Martinko conceded.

The old bridge closed Sept. 3. Its replacement, already built, is to open Nov. 1, once it is connected to U.S. 20.

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