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MOUNT VERNON — As with so many things, COVID-19 affected the bridge replacement on Lower Gambier Road. If things go well, the road could reopen this fall.
Originally slated for replacement in 2020, County Engineer Cameron Keaton told Knox Pages that the project was put on hold because “we had no idea how much impact COVID-19 would have on our overall budget.”
“Plans are in the final stage and we hope to have the bid set in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “I would like to put the project out for bid in April 2021, enter into contract for the construction of the bridge by the end of May 2021, and have the roadway back open to traffic by October 2021.”
Keaton said that under normal circumstances, this type of bridge construction could easily be completed in three to four months.
“One item that could impact the proposed schedule is the availability of steel,” he said. “At the current time, there is a shortage of steel which is causing a backlog on projects that include steel products.”
The preliminary cost of the new bridge construction is $388,000. Keaton said the number will be revised based on the final plans.
“This bridge project is being funded 100% by local funds,” he said. “The bridge did not qualify for grant funding through the Ohio Department of Transportation, and I already had other projects scheduled for Ohio Public Works Commission funding.
“The other issue with using ODOT funding is timing,” he added. “The current wait period for ODOT bridge funds is five years, and I knew that we could not keep this structure closed for five years.”
The bridge load rating was reduced to 3 tons in December 2017. Keaton closed the bridge in November 2019, and crews removed the bridge in January 2020.
“The reason I closed the bridge to through traffic on November 4, 2019, was due to overweight vehicles ignoring the 3 ton posting,” he explained. “A number of overweight vehicles were observed crossing the bridge, and then this became a safety issue.”
The county engineer's department receives roughly 96% of its funding through vehicle registration fees and a tax on gasoline. Gov. Mike DeWine postponed vehicle license renewals due to the coronavirus, and many individuals worked from home and did not travel. Both factors resulted in a loss of potential revenue.
Other bridge projects on tap for 2021 include:
-- Lock Road Bridge (CR53), $1.2 million: replacing a pony truss structure with a composite box beam bridge
-- Front Royal Road Bridge, $20,000: deck replacement
-- Patton Road Bridge, $874,000: replace existing structure with a composite box beam bridge