About 10 percent of the 171 county-owned bridges in Portage County have weight restrictions that limit the traffic that can use them. But a new state initiative may get a few of them replaced more quickly than local officials expected.
The worst, and most recent addition to the list of deficient bridges, is the 51-foot-long Johnnycake Road bridge in northern Randolph, which just got a 3-ton limit imposed on it, limiting travel to only cars, SUVs and small pickup trucks.
That brings the tally to 16 county bridges with weight restrictions.
Now, as part of a statewide program, the Ohio Department of Transportation may replace five of those deficient bridges, including the Johnnycake Road span.
On Oct. 31, Gov. John Kasich announced a bridge partnership program with cities and counties that aims to spend $120 million over three years to repair or replace some 220 of the worst bridges in the county and city systems.
"There are 44,000 bridges in Ohio, second only to Texas," said Steven Faulkner, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation. A large majority of them are in the local system.
ODOT has identified 40 bridges for funding in the first year of the program and will work with local officials to determine which bridges will be repaired or replaced in the coming years.
Portage doesn't have any bridges on the first year list, but County Engineer Michael Marozzi said they have offered suggestion.
"We have five bridges that we believe are going to be done. It's a little bit of a crystal ball" guess as to what might be funded in the second and third years, Marozzi said.
ODOT worked with the County Engineers Association of Ohio to get lists of candidates for the program.
In addition to the Johnnycake Road span, the Portage list submitted by Marozzi includes a bridge on Stroup Road in Atwater just south of Moff Road; a 26-foot span on Canada Road in Mantua that serves an industrial area; a bridge with a 7-ton limit on Industry Road in Rootstown over Barrel Run, and a bridge on Norton Road over Silver Creek in Hiram Township with a 12-ton limit.
"I'm very pleased that we're getting a helping hand here. Anytime someone wants to fix a local bridge, we're happy," Marozzi said of the ODOT program.
He said his office has replaced some 44 substandard spans in the past 10 years. But replacing deficient bridges can take several years as the county needs to line up federal funds to help pay for the jobs. Bridge replacement costs range from $100,000 for a small 20-foot span to $23 million ($3.5 million that the county paid) for the Crain Avenue Bridge in Kent -- the most expensive Marozzi said he's done in his career. The average cost is $500,000.
"If I don't get outside funding, federal or state, we don't replace a bridge. I can't afford that straight local cost out of my budget. They cost too much."
With the number of county-owned bridges and an expected 50-75-vyear life span, "I should be replacing three bridges a year just to keep up," Marozzi said.
Marozzi applauded the governor's program.
"This is a bold initiative that finally recognizes that trips by trucks do not start and stop on state highways. Trips by truck usually end up on a county or local road, or city streets," he said. "Kasich and [ODOT Director Jerry] Wray have recognized this and put their money where their mouth is. This is the first time in my 26 years that ODOT has reached out" to the local engineers."
Assistant Engineer Scott Miller said the state program should get the projects done more quickly than scheduled. Some of the local spans being considered for the ODOT program were listed for repair in 2019.
The list of county bridges with weight restrictions range from 3 tons on the Johnnycake Road span in Randolph to 36 tons on a Canada Road bridge in Mantua.
The list also includes Porter Road, Atwater, 32 tons; Ravenna Road, Franklin, 15 tons; Freedom Road, Freedom, 7 tons; Liberty Street, Garrettsville, 15 tons; Liberty Street, Garrettsville, 14 tons; Norton Road, Hiram Twp., 12 tons; Main Street, Kent, 20 tons.
Mantua Center Road, Mantua Twp., 34 tons; High Street, Mantua, 7 tons; Hopkins Road, Nelson, 32 tons; Parkman Road, Nelson, 12 tons; Cable Line Road, Palmyra, 22 tons; Wayland Road, Palmyra, 12 tons; and Industry Road, Rootstown, 6 tons.
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