28 bridges ‘structurally obsolete’

Federal funding could become available for maintenance or replacement of Seneca County bridges.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced legislation last month that, if approved, would provide significant federal investment in bridge repair and would apply “buy American” provisions to those projects.

According to a report issued by The American Road and Transportation Builders Association, about 1,653 of 27,345 bridges in the state — about 6 percent — are classified as structurally deficient, meaning one of the key elements is in poor or worse condition. More than 4,500 bridges statewide are considered functionally obsolete.

According to information from Brown’s office, 28 Seneca County bridges are identified as functionally obsolete and 11 are classified as structurally deficient.

Seneca County Engineer Mark Zimmerman said bridges and roads are evaluated annually and are prioritized in a five-year master plan that involves, local, state and federal funding.

He said there are 403 bridges in the county maintained by his office. He said of the structurally deficient bridges, seven are maintained by the county and four are maintained by the state.

Zimmerman said of the seven county bridges, one was replaced last year, one is permanently closed and one is scheduled for replacement with a federal grant in 2019. He said the remaining four are on schedule for replacement or rehabilitation this year.

“It is my intention to have all structurally deficient bridges eliminated by the end of 2019,” he said.

Zimmerman said that just because a bridge is structurally deficient does not mean it is unsafe.

“This simply means one of the many elements of the bridges is deficient,” he said. “We have 403 bridges in Seneca County that my office is responsible for. I am very proud of all the hard work my guys have done over the past years. To have a plan to have all of our bridges listed as structurally sound by 2019 is a testament to their work.”

Tiffin Engineer Mario Livojevic noted that there were no structurally deficient bridges in the city of Tiffin, but the news wasn’t all good.

“We have a number of older bridges that are still safe and usable, in terms of load limits, but due to their age will continue to deteriorate at an accelerating pace,” he said.

Among the more notable needs is replacement of the Ella Street bridge. Preliminary estimates put the project cost at about $5 million. The bridge was constructed in 1916 and rehabilitated in 1980.

“Planning has already begun on the Ella bridge, and were funding not an issue, it would bid for construction in a year or two,” he said.

Brown’s list included the Rebecca Street bridge over Rock Creek, but Tiffin Assistant Engineer Matt Watson said it should be removed because it was replaced last summer and dedicated and named after former Mayor Bernie Hohman.

The goal of ensuring bridges are repaired in Tiffin and Seneca County could be helped by Brown’s pending legislation.

During a conference call last month, Brown said the bill aims to promote American jobs by requiring the use of American-made steel and iron.

“We need to make sure any investment in American infrastructure creates American jobs,” he said.

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation estimates a $123 billion bridge repair backlog nationally, including about $30 billion in Ohio.

The Bridge Investment Act would invest about $75 billion nationwide into a competitive grant program, but Brown hopes more money can be allocated to repair U.S. infrastructure.

President Donald Trump discussed a large federal infrastructure plan during his campaign and mentioned it further during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. He said he would ask Congress to create a bill generating at least $1.5 trillion for infrastructure investment.

Brown said he believes this is an area where Republicans and Democrats in Congress can work together with the president.

“I’ve been clear, this is an area I think we can work together on,” he said. “It’s a disgrace we’ve allowed the transportation system our parents and grandparents left us to fall into disrepair,” he said.