Bridge repair funds to lift some burden from county

Eddie Mowen Jr.

December 31, 2013

Four Preble County bridges will be part of a repair and replacement program to be administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation over the next three years.

Gov. John R. Kasich announced in October of last year that Ohio will invest $120 million to repair and replace more than 200 county and city-owned bridges over the next three years. The funds are made available by Ohio’s successful efforts to overhaul highway funding by reducing overhead costs and improving efficiency at the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).

According to Preble County Engineer Kyle Cross, the four bridges selected to receive the work here in the county would cost an estimated $600,000 if the Engineer’s Office paid for them.

Work is expected to begin on the first 40 bridges next year. ODOT will work with local officials to identify the remaining bridges to repair or replace in the following years. Bridges were selected based on a variety of factors including safety and importance to local job creation efforts.

“ODOT is going to completely administer the program, which is great for us,” Cross said recently. “We don’t have any type of administrative work, nothing that’s going to impact our budget at all. These are as free as free can get. We all pay taxes. We’re getting something and not requiring additional local funds.”

“When we took office Ohio faced not only an $8 billion shortfall in our general budget but also a $1.6 billion shortfall in our highway budget,” Kasich said. “ODOT tightened its own belt, freed up more than $600 million and then Ohio leveraged the turnpike to generate an additional $1.5 billion, which grows to $3 billion when paired with federal and local funds. That innovative thinking and that careful management of our resources is why we can do this $120 million program to help counties and cities meet their bridge needs. In the past ODOT hasn’t really helped counties or cities address these kinds of needs but fortunately we’re in a strong enough position now, that we can and we will,” Kasich added.

Ohio has 44,000 bridges, the second-highest number in the nation behind Texas. According to some reports, the condition of Ohio’s bridges are better than the national average but many bridges are waiting for much-needed repairs.

Preble County maintains 412 bridges.

The bridge located on Weist Road over Four-Mile Creek is slated to receive repairs in this round of projects. “It will be done in 2014 one way or another,” Cross noted. “It’s one of the worst.”

“Bridges selected fall into different categories: functionally obsolete or structurally deficient,” Cross said. “We have 137 bridges that fall into one of those two categories.”

With an annual budget of about $4 million, and $1 million worth of bridges to be replaced, that’s a huge impact,” Cross said.

Cross calls 2013 a banner year. “We had replaced 13 bridges in house,” he said.

They opened the fourth Federal Bridge Project in early December.

“We are chipping away at that number, but every time you replace one, you find something that goes wrong with another one. It’s a constant battle we’re fighting,” he said.

It will probably take a couple of months to finish each bridge, according to Cross.

Weist Road; Concord Road, East of Concord Church; Halderman Road, west of Ohio 503 in Lanier Township and Greenbush Road East of Pleasant Valley Road are the bridges slated for repair/replacement.

“I would have liked to have gotten more, but that being said, it is good in a sense that it shows there are people in worse shape than we are,” Cross said. “You don’t wish that on anybody. We’re all in the same situation.”

“It’s going to free up money that we would have had to spend on replacing these bridges,” Cross said. It’s going to let us move to other bridges and get more done in that same time period.

“It’s going to be a considerable burden lifted off of us.”