ODOT has a bridge for sale

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WATERVILLE, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Transportation has a bridge they would like to sell to you.

Really.

Except that according to ODOT rules, the Roche de Boeuf intercity rail bridge over the Maumee River near Waterville has not officially been a bridge since 1983, because its poor condition makes it dangerous even for a pedestrian.

And if no one steps in at a June 30 auction to remove the historic, but decrepit, concrete arch structure from state hands, ODOT plans to proceed with the demolition.

The 5.67 acre auction in Lucas and Wood Counties that includes the bridge is scheduled for 10 am at the Maumee Rotary Lodge in Side Cut Metropark, 1025 W. River Rd. In Maumee.

“Our duty to the public is not being met in two very important ways with this bridge,” said Patrick McColley, ODOT’s deputy district manager at Bowling Green, in a statement announcing the auction.

“ODOT’s mission is to safely move people and goods from one place to another, and at one point this bridge supported that mission,” McColley said. “The bridge now, however, is useless for transportation, and in its deteriorated condition poses a risk to the public.”

Community landmark

Among those likely to attend the auction is Jon Gochenour, the municipal administrator of Waterville, whose municipal seal includes a rendering of the viaduct. But he said he only expected to be there to watch.

“It is a community landmark on the National Register of Historic Places – an iconic symbol of Waterville,” Gochenour said. “[But] given that we have seen the cost of its restoration, it is beyond our capacity to afford it…. There is a lot of support in the community to keep it going, but the money involved is astronomical.

At a public meeting in November 2019, ODOT officials estimated the cost of restoring the bridge – which they said essentially meant its reconstruction – at around $ 15 million, while its demolition would cost around $ 2. millions of dollars.

Gochenour said there had been “talks” between Waterville, Lucas County and Metroparks Toledo, but none have paid off. The structure could be “a nice addition to the Farnsworth Metropark”, he reflected, but this agency has other commitments.

“It’s just not something we could justify,” said Scott Carpenter, spokesperson for the Metroparks District. “If we were to buy it, we would have to tear it down as well. “

What you get

An ODOT assessment assesses the bridge and land – a 66-foot-wide strip of the old intercity railway right-of-way from the River and Forst Roads in Wood County to the Anthony Wayne Trailhead in Lucas County – at $ 100.

Anyone courageous enough to submit a bid will become fully responsible for the maintenance of the structure.

“The buyer assumes all responsibilities and obligations for the maintenance, management, securing, repair, replacement or removal of the bridge structure,” reads part of the ODOT notice. “ODOT will not retain any responsibility or liability for or in connection with the bridge or associated property. “

Long distance links

The structure built in 1908 by the Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railroad Co. is one of the last remnants of the region’s “intercity” rail lines that once crisscrossed northern and western Ohio and throughout the region. Midwest.

The term “intercity” referred to their function as an extension of tram services which were the backbone of local public transport in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Railways were often built and owned by electric utility companies and operated by electric propulsion, which gave these companies the opportunity to expand electrical service into rural areas that would otherwise not have been profitable to serve.

But while many of these power lines survive, trains quickly succumbed to competition from private automobiles on public roads. Most of the intercity railways that survived to reach the Great Depression then went bankrupt and the Roche de Boeuf Bridge lost its trains in 1937.

Four years later, the old railway structure came back to life as a bypass of the Waterville Bridge downstream when one of the latter’s spans collapsed and, according to ODOT, could not be replaced immediately. sequel due to wartime steel shortages. The state purchased the bridge in 1943 and continued to use it for automobile traffic until 1946, when the Waterville Bridge reopened.

It has been officially unused since, and over time its concrete exterior collapsed, exposing the earthen backfill inside to the elements and causing large pieces of concrete to rupture and fall into the river or during above the water by reinforcing steel strands.

Monument

The bridge was listed in 1972 on the National Register of Historic Places, and several years later, a Roche de Boeuf Bridge Historical Society organized to lead an unsuccessful preservation effort. In 1983, ODOT proclaimed it was no longer a bridge for inspection and maintenance purposes.

Its condition became evident in 2017 when James Bagdonas, then Waterville’s municipal administrator, wrote a letter to ODOT citing its degradation as a danger to canoeists and boaters as well as to future users of the Maumee River Water Trail.

City officials told the ODOT town hall two years later that their hope at the time was for ODOT to cut down on the hanging pieces of concrete before they came loose. But the letter sparked further examination of the situation by ODOT.

Carpenter said he does not envy the dilemma the state faces in sealing the fate of the viaduct.

“As much as we like to have it there as a benchmark… it’s hard to justify the cost when there is no return to the taxpayer,” he said. “Fortunately, the bridge has been there as long as it has been” for those interested to document it in photographs and paintings.

This bridge near Waterville, Ohio, was built in 1908 by the Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railroad Co. is one of the last remnants of the region’s “intercity” rail lines that once traversed the north and east. western Ohio and throughout the Midwest.



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