County may be able to ditch some bridge maintenance

A vehicle drives over Bridge Street bridge in Pemberville.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

There may be some troubled bridges over waters here in Wood County.

The maintenance of bridges in the county has always been handled by the Wood County Engineer’s Office. That’s 440 bridges total.

But the newest county engineer, John Musteric, said his office may only be responsible for about 410. Musteric has asked the county prosecuting attorney to look into the possibility that 30 bridges located in local municipalities should be maintained by those villages or cities.

“Some of those bridges may not be our responsibility, we’re finding out,” Musteric told the county commissioners on Tuesday. The engineer is hoping to get an answer from the prosecutor by the end of the year. “More to come.”

Wood County’s engineer office isn’t the only one trying to ditch some bridge responsibilities – for cost and liability issues.

“This has been happening all around the state,” explained Joanie Cherry, from the county engineer’s office.

Wood County Commissioner Ted Bowlus expressed some concern about municipalities having to pick up the costs to maintain bridges.

“It would be an expensive venture for them,” Bowlus said.

Construction costs to build a small box culvert bridge were estimated at about $100,000 to $150,000. The average bridge costs $350,000 to replace, while larger structures can cost close to $1 million, Cherry said.

But Musteric said it seems logical to him that if municipalities annex bridges into their communities, they ought to take care of them. He also pointed out that towns and cities may have better chances of securing state or federal funding.

“They have more opportunities to get funding” than the county, he said.

“A few of the bridges could get money very easily,” Cherry said. “A lot of municipalities probably don’t realize how much funding is available to them.”

Bowling Green has no bridges in its city limits, and Perrysburg has already been maintaining bridges inside its boundaries. But several communities do have bridges – such as Tontogany, Pemberville, North Baltimore, Fostoria, Northwood and Rossford.

Not all bridges inside municipalities would qualify, but those located on roadways that do not extend outside the city or village limits may qualify to be turned over to those communities to maintain.

Pemberville, for example, has three bridges but some could remain under the county’s care.

“Those are three we are looking at,” Cherry said. But it’s likely that only the Bridge Street structure could be shifted over to the village’s responsibility, she added.

The number of bridges in the county and the costs to maintain them have always been issues.

All of the 440 bridges in the county are inspected annually and then appraised on a scale of 0 (failed) to 9 (excellent). Last year’s inspections found three bridges in failed condition; 2 critical; 11 serious; 54 poor; 42 fair; 80 satisfactory; 107 good; 98 very good; and 43 excellent.

The three bridges in failed condition that are closed to traffic in the county are:

  • Reigle Road over Jackson Cutoff in Jackson Township.
  • Insley Road over Rocky Ford Creek in Henry Township.
  • Oil Center Road over Hockenberry Run in Jackson Township.

The bridges scheduled to be replaced this year are:

  • Cygnet Road over South Branch Portage River, in Perry Township.
  • Emerson Road over a ditch located north of Cygnet Road, in Perry and Bloom townships.
  • Jerry City Road over Jackson Cutoff, in Jackson and Milton townships.
  • Latcha Road over Cedar Creek, in Lake Township (ODOT Bridge Partnership Program).

With the average lifespan of a bridge being 50 years, the county would have to replace eight to nine bridges a year to keep up, Musteric said.

“That is not happening,” he said.

It can take as long as five years to get bridge funding from the Federal Highway Administration. And bridges that are deemed historic structures take much longer, and cost much more. Such is the case with a bridge on Long Judson Road right now. That bridge is estimated at $1 million to replace.

“We get a lot of calls on that one,” Musteric said.

Some bridges appraised as in “critical” condition are not closed if they are deemed safe for traffic. “It depends which portion of the bridge is in critical condition,” Cherry said.

Load limit signs are currently posted at 41 bridges. Changes in mandates for load limits will require the county to post new warning signs on those bridges that currently have the signs with truck silhouettes.

“It’s supposed to make it easier for the trucking industry,” Cherry said.

“The signs out there are going to be looking different,” she told the commissioners. “We will have new signs up by the end of the year.”

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