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REPORT: 2,230 Structurally Deficient Bridges in Ohio Alone

Records obtained by the Dayton Daily News reveal that Ohio is home to 2,230 bridges that have been deemed structurally deficient. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, government agencies are not properly funded to keep up with the repairs.

Montgomery County Engineer Paul Gruner says continued repair and restoration delays only raise potential costs:

“There’s not enough money to stay ahead of it. The more we let them go, the more it costs to replace them, and we need more money to be able to replace them.”

Funding is the main problem. Clark County Engineer Jonathan Burr told the Dayton Daily News that people moving out of state has caused a dip in license plate fees which go to fund road repair projects. Ohio and other states in a similar predicament desperately need new funding outlets:

[American Society of Civil Engineers] president-elect Randy Over, a civil engineer in Cleveland, said current funding relies on a combination of the gas tax, license plate fees and municipal income taxes. But Over said that an increased need for money, coupled with vehicles that use less fuel or no gas at all, will require a change in how projects are funded.

“We are approaching the time of a transition to a different formula,” he said.

With no dramatic changes in funding on the horizon, county engineers expect the struggle to keep up with deteriorating bridges to continue. Clark County’s Burr said some costs have doubled in the last few years.

The biggest bridge project in Clark County this year will be replacement of the Selma Pike bridge over the Little Miami River, anticipated to cost nearly $1 million. Montgomery County, meanwhile, has 34 major bridge repair or replacement projects scheduled through 2020.

Butler County has 401 bridges and five of them have lowered weight limits due to structural issues.

“We have to stretch every bridge to an 80-year life cycle,” Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens said.

In some cases, replacing depleted bridges can actually be more cost-efficient than repairing existing structure. Some local governments, including Warren County, are going this route.

The Jeremiah Morrow bridge, named after the ninth governor of Ohio, is being replaced with two new bridges. The Morrow bridge actually features twin spans that are 2,300 feet long and 239 feet high, making it the tallest bridge in Ohio. The bridge, built in 1965, carries 40,000 cars and trucks a day on Interstate 71 over the Little Miami River.

Rust and corrosion on the steel truss bridges led the state to investigate the possibility of repairing them and repainting.

“It’s rated a 5 on a scale of 0 to 9. Four is deficient, so 5 is just above deficient,” said Brandon Collett, ODOT Bridge Engineer.

Collett said painting alone would cost $10 million, so in the long run it was more cost-effective to replace the structures. Construction began in 2010 and will continue through 2016 at a cost of $89 million.

To see how your state stacks up to Ohio and what nearby bridges have been labeled “deficient,” use the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration helpful link.


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