SWANTON — As the Swanton High School marching band played the opening bars of a well-known Ozzy Osbourne rock-and-roll hit, a locomotive horn wailed near the Main Street crossing about a mile away.
And before the band, performing at a dedication ceremony Friday for the new Hallett Avenue Overpass, reached the first chorus of Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” the 59-car eastbound Norfolk Southern freight began thundering under the bridge.
Thus passed one of the 70 to 80 trains that travel through Swanton on a typical day, trains that no longer will divide this village on the Fulton-Lucas county border in two — delaying motorists, school buses, and occasionally emergency vehicles — now that the $8.6 million bridge is finished.
“This project will have a positive impact on the village of Swanton for years to come,” village administrator Jon Gochenour said during a dedication ceremony Friday morning, citing “improved access for the business community” and the end of train-related delays during emergencies.
“While I have only lived in Swanton five years, I fully understand how important this overpass is to the village,” Mayor Ann Roth said. “It took a lot of years, a lot of great planning, and a lot of cooperation.”
Contractor Miller Brothers Construction, of Archbold, started work in late 2010 and finished seven months ahead of schedule. “Our currency at ODOT is safety and time,” said Theresa Pollick, an ODOT spokesman from the Bowling Green district office.
Hallett Avenue, running along the county line and providing access to parts of Swanton, Harding, and Fulton townships, was identified during the early 2000s as a bridge candidate under a state program to replace railroad crossings at locations critical to public safety. Swanton's firehouse is just north of the new bridge, while its police station is just to the west on the opposite side of the tracks.
The project was put on hold in 2008 when the state program ran out of money. But in 2009, the village’s application for $7.9 million in federal “stimulus” funding distributed by ODOT was approved by the Ohio Transportation Review Advisory Council.
“We succeeded, I think, because we were the most prepared project. We were shovel ready,” said Mr. Gochenour, to whom Swanton Village Council President David Pilliod said the village owes “a debt of gratitude” for an exceptional effort to pursue that funding.
For Derina Mead, who huddled on the bridge with her mother and her son against a chilly breeze to listen to her daughter play in the marching band, the bridges opening means “getting around the town, getting the kids to school” without train delays.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094.