The State Rt. 109 bridge over the Maumee River at Liberty Center, also known as the Damascus Bridge, is narrow with insufficient shoulders.
THE BLADE/DAVID PATCH
LIBERTY CENTER, Ohio — The State Rt. 109 bridge over the Maumee River, built atop a previous bridge’s piers during the 1970s, was arguably obsolete the day it opened.
Using the old piers doubtlessly saved some money, but it also meant the bridge was built without significant shoulders. There’s no more than a foot between the travel lanes and its side walls.
Now, the Ohio Department of Transportation says, that bridge is wearing out, and plans call for its replacement to be built to current standards: one 12-foot lane in each direction, plus a 10-foot shoulder on each side.
That should be plenty of room for bicyclists or pedestrians walking the nearby Towpath Trail to cross safely, state officials said in a brochure distributed to dozens of people who trickled through an open-house meeting Tuesday at Liberty Center High School about the $16.45 million project scheduled for construction starting in 2015.
ODOT’s “preferred alternative,” presented to the public for the first time Tuesday, calls for a completely new bridge slightly west of the existing structure.
On the Maumee’s north bank, it would connect to old U.S. 24 — now Henry County Road 424 — at the existing intersection with Rt. 109’s north leg toward Liberty Center, creating a four-way corner there and eliminating a jog the state highway now takes to cross County Road 424.
But while that change also is expected to have safety benefits, the availability of full shoulders was the best news for local residents who came out to look at ODOT’s plans.
“It’s something that needs to be done,” said Bill Glanz, a Liberty Township farmer. The lack of shoulders makes it “difficult to get farm equipment across the current bridge,” besides its deteriorating condition, he said.
“It looks good to me,” said Kevin Sonnenberg, a Harrison Township resident and transportation supervisor for the Liberty Center schools. The existing bridge, he said, is “definitely narrow, and we run semis across that bridge along with school buses.”
And Todd Murdock, who owns land on the river’s south bank just east of the bridge, said that while replacing the bridge using the same alignment would avoid property condemnation, ODOT’s choice “does seem like a good alternative.”
ODOT’s exhibits showed two other alignments its engineers reviewed, as well as an option to build the replacement on the same alignment. Rebuilding the bridge in place would cost about $500,000 less, according to the exhibits, but would require closing the river crossing for nearly two years and forgoing the intersection improvement at County Road 424. The two other alignments both cost more and require more land condemnation.
The state’s preferred plan requires closing Route 109 for just a month or two in 2016 to connect the bridge to the existing roadway just north of the State Rt. 110 intersection.
It includes taking about 1.75 acres from three different parcels, most of it from land belonging to Lynn and Gerry Ripke, whose home and small restaurant are just west of the existing bridge on the Maumee’s north bank.
Mr. Ripke stands to lose a barn and four small out-buildings on his property, but he said he’d be happier if ODOT would just condemn the whole thing, because most of the restaurant’s customers went away when new U.S. 24 opened about a mile north.
“If they take half the property, I’ve got nothing left,” he said. “They already ruined our business by moving the road. They might as well take the whole place, and we can get a fresh start somewhere else.”
Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.