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Published: Tuesday, 9/6/2005

20% of city s bridges get low marks

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Schwartz Road bridge over the Ottawa River, rated  poor,  will be replaced in 2009.
The Schwartz Road bridge over the Ottawa River, rated poor, will be replaced in 2009.
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More than one-fifth of bridges maintained by the city of Toledo were in fair or worse condition during the latest annual inspections, and many of those are on major routes like the Anthony Wayne Trail, Alexis Road, and Telegraph Road.

City records also show that the number of bridges with the lower ratings has declined to 34 from 41 during the past six years, as some of the worst structures have been replaced or rehabilitated.

Three of the 10 that were rated poor during the inspections late last year are under construction, and three more are scheduled for replacement next year or in 2007.

The only city-maintained bridge listed in serious condition is a bridge on Front Street that once spanned railroad tracks leading to the Hocking Valley Dock on the Maumee River. It now has no practical purpose and is to be removed during Front s realignment after the Veterans Glass City Skyway project is completed next year.

Traffic on the Front structure has been shifted away from a failing beam on one side that is the main reason for its serious rating. No bridges were rated failed, imminent failure, or critical in reports from last year, 2001, and 1998 that The Blade requested.

Seven years ago, when the city had 23 fewer bridges to maintain, nearly one-third of its inventory was fair or worse. Fixing them is a never-ending process that requires millions of dollars, said Dale Rupert, a senior bridge engineer with the city s Division of Streets, Bridges and Harbor.

We would love to have everything rated a 9 [for excellent], he said. A 5 [fair] is telling you, You need to start looking at it. But while we are improving some bridges, Mother Nature is aging the others.

One of the current poor bridges, and four of those rated fair, are on the Anthony Wayne Trail between I-75 and Western Avenue. All are scheduled for rebuilding in 2007 by the Ohio Department of Transportation after having received short-term repairs by city crews during the past two years. The project is likely to cause major traffic snarls on the Trail.

Other poor bridges include Schwartz Road over the Ottawa River near the Toledo city landfill. The concrete on that bridge s abutments is chipping away, and the span itself is only one lane wide a particular problem when 80 percent of its traffic is trucks.

Replacement is scheduled for 2009.

State law requires all bridges with spans longer than 10 feet to be inspected annually. Mr. Rupert said inspections are done in the fall so that each year s routine maintenance program can be developed during the winter, after the results are in.

Major repair and replacement priorities are established based on bridge condition, traffic volume, scheduling of nearby roadway projects, and funding sources, he said.

I may move [the scheduling for] a bridge around because funding may be more advantageous in a given year, Mr. Rupert said. Small bridges on residential streets tend to be the hardest for which to find funding sources outside city coffers, he said.

When a bridge is scheduled for repair also depends on what is wrong with it, Mr. Rupert said, because a bridge s overall inspection rating can only be one level higher than the rating of its weakest component.

If you have a bridge that s rated a 4 [poor], it depends on what pulls it down to a 4, the bridge engineer said. If you have a bad deck on it, but it s a low-volume street, you re not going to worry too much about it right away.

In the case of the Anthony Wayne Bridge, which carries State Rts. 2, 65, and 51 over the Maumee River, a poor rating in the latest inspection is caused by cracks in the structure s floor beams and the cantilevers that hold up its sidewalks, deteriorating cross members atop its towers, decaying expansion joints, and drainage issues.

Seven years ago, the concrete pavement on the suspension span also known as the High Level Bridge was replaced, raising the bridge s rating at the time from poor to satisfactory. More recently, loose steel in the towers was removed to keep it from falling on traffic.

Joe Rutherford, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman, said a project to replace the bridge s deck and address its other repair needs is under design but won t start before 2010.

While the city is responsible for routine maintenance of bridges that carry state routes over waterways, the state pays for capital improvements, which for the Anthony Wayne Bridge are expected to cost at least $20 million.

If there were issues that compromised the safety of the traveling public, we would put this project on a faster track, Mr. Rutherford said.

Bill Franklin, the city s assistant chief operating officer, said he considers Toledo s bridges to be a shining star of our infrastructure. City officials have done well obtaining grants, the state s Issue 2 funding has been a big help, and council seems to take bridges seriously, Mr. Franklin said.

State reviews of city bridge inspectors reports indicate that city inspections are consistent with the state s bridge-condition standards, Mr. Rutherford said. ODOT s only complaint about city bridge inspections, he said, is that reports have been filed late.

During the past 10 years, 38 new city-maintained bridges have been built in Toledo, either to replace old bridges or, in four cases, structures needed to eliminate railroad crossings near the Port of Toledo. Several were state projects to replace bridges over I-75 or I-280 with longer structures to accommodate freeway widening.

Eleven city bridges have undergone major rehabilitation during that time. Eight bridges have been removed and not replaced, half of them along I-280 and the other over abandoned railroad rights-of-way.

The construction involves three of the bridges that have been among Toledo s lowest-rated for years: the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge over the Maumee River; the Byrne Road bridge over South Avenue and the Norfolk Southern Railroad, and the Fred Young Bridge that carries Summit Street over the Ottawa River.

The latter is a joint project between the city and Lucas County, as its north end is in Washington Township.

The two poor bridges to be rebuilt next year are Telegraph Road over Shantee Creek and State Line Road over Halfway Creek. ODOT plans to award a contract for reconstruction of the Anthony Wayne Trail bridge over the Norfolk Southern Railroad near City Park Avenue late next year, but with construction to occur in 2007, Mr. Rutherford said.

That work will coincide with replacement of the Trail s twin bridges over Collingwood Avenue and Swan Creek. Officials have yet to announce construction plans for the Trail bridges replacement, but the work likely will require single-lane traffic on a roadway that is Toledo s busiest thoroughfare.

A bridge that carries the Trail and Rohr and Wildwood boulevards over Delaware Creek is likely to be replaced in 2008 or 2009. The other poor bridge is a span in Ottawa Park that is used primarily by pedestrians and is scheduled for replacement in 2009.

Contact David Patch at:dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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