NAPOLEON - If forecasts of a sunny fall day hold true tomorrow afternoon, hundreds of people are expected to walk across Napoleon's new Perry Street bridge for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Starting at 4 p.m., folks are expected to pose for once-in-a-lifetime pictures on the $17.4 million bridge, and listen to at least five state and local officials speak and a band play in the middle of the bridge, which is also State Rt. 108 through the city.
But all that is quite secondary to plans for the bridge to open to traffic about 6 p.m.
Although hundreds of people are expected for the ceremony, thousands have driven a six-mile mile detour since February because of the demolition and rebuilding of the only bridge across the Maumee River in this Henry County seat.
The bridge is the only way to drive directly from the north to the Campbell Soup Co. plant, which employs 1,285 people about a mile from the bridge, and the southeastern corner of the city.
About 16,000 vehicles a day crossed the bridge before it was rebuilt, according to an Ohio Department of Transportation count. The wish of those masses is "just get it open," Napoleon City Manager Jon Bisher said.
"If you lived in Napoleon in the past year, sometime you've been inconvenienced," Mr. Bisher said. "There's probably very few people in Napoleon who haven't been touched in some way."
There's still work to do before tomorrow's ceremony - and after the ribbon is cut. Approaches to the bridge were being paved yesterday. Today, they're to be painted and tomorrow morning workers are expected to be touching up. Additional painting and landscaping might not be done until spring.
The transportation department used state and federal fuel-tax funds to replace the bridge, which is one of its largest projects of the year in an eight-county area of northwest Ohio.
The 75-year-old bridge's concrete was deteriorating, and it was narrower than roads that feed into it, leading to quarter-mile backups on weekday afternoons when Campbell is changing shifts and the school day is ending.
The old bridge was demolished and replaced by Fru-Con Construction Corp., which also is building the I-280 bridge in Toledo. Fru-Con cast the Napoleon bridge in pieces at its I-280 casting area and hauled the sections by truck about 45 miles to Napoleon.
That demolition, which was never officially announced by the city or state leaders, might have been the biggest public spectacle of the bridge rebuilding.
Mr. Bisher estimated about 1,000 people watched it being blown up last winter - drama that tomorrow's ceremony will be hard to match.
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