The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced a $120 million program to repair and replace more than 200 county and city bridges statewide in the next three years. This November announcement includes 29 bridges in Morrow County. Construction on six of the Morrow County bridges is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2014.
Morrow County Engineer Randy Bush said this will be a great thing for the county bridges and county roads as well. The money from this state partnership can only be used for bridges. But Bush added that this will free more of his annual budget of $350,000 for much needed county road work and possibly some additional bridges.
“This is a God send for Morrow County,” Bush remarked. “These 2.3 million dollars are worth six to seven years of our county highway budget.”
Both Bush and Morrow County Commissioner Tom Whiston give much credit for the project to ODOT Director Jerry Wray. Bush said that Wray had been a County Engineer for Licking County and he has a good understanding of the problems of funding for rural counties. He said Wray has been trying to get this project going for some time and really pushed to get it started.
This Ohio Bridge Partnership will require no local county funding. ODOT spokesman Steve Faulkner said that ODOT was able to find $600 million by “tightening its own belt” early in the Kasich administration. They also leveraged funds from the turnpike to generate an additional $1.5 billion. This innovative planning was how they will be able to fund the bridges program.
Faulkner said that 220 bridges around Ohio have tentatively been selected for repair projects. In the first group of 40 bridges to be worked on beginning in 2014, six are in Morrow County. Bush is quite pleased to have that many from the county and said that the bridges were selected on very definite criteria.
To be selected for the project, the bridges had to meet three criteria. The bridges had to be currently open and carrying traffic. They must be “structurally deficient,” which is an engineering term meaning that the bridge must require repair and still be safe. The other requirement is that the bridge meets the federal bridge definition of being more than 20 feet long.
Bush added that the first six Morrow County bridges were chosen based on their condition and the total number of bridges in need of repair in comparison to other counties. ODOT was picking bridges that were deteriorating or had reduced load limits.
The first six approved at this time include: 1. HARMONY #37, CR 25 over Big Walnut Creek, 2. BENNINGTON #16 CR 170 over Mill Creek, 3. WESTFIELD #11 TR21 over Claypool Run, 4. BENNINGTON #3 CR213 over Big Walnut Creek, 5. HARMONY #7 TR 233 over Big Walnut Creek, and 6. CANAAN #18 CR 28 over Thorne Run.
The next 23 bridges to be completed over the next three years in Morrow County include: one in Washington Twp., one in N. Bloomfield Twp., one in Perry Twp., one in Canaan Twp., six in Cardington Twp., one in Congress Twp., one in Franklin Twp., three in Harmony Twp., two in Chester Twp., one in Westfield Twp., one in Lincoln Twp., two in Peru Twp., and two in S. Bloomfield Twp.
Commissioner Whiston attended the Nov. 25th meeting in Mansfield when the project was rolled out for the state. He commented that the, “Commissioners are appreciative to Gov. Kasich and ODOT Director Wray for the funding. We understand that six of the first 40 bridges show the significance of the need in Morrow County and we hope to continue to improve our roads and bridges. This will go a long way towards helping the county. We are appreciative for Randy Bush, Morrow County Engineer, to get the applications completed. We are sure he is excited about this as well.”
For a map of all 40 bridges in Ohio’s Bridge Partnership Program go to the ODOT website at www.dot.state.oh.us/Divisions/Planning/LocalPrograms/OBPP/OBPP_Map.pdf.