Derided by some as a blight, but also eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a trackless former railroad bridge next to the Ohio Turnpike’s Maumee River bridge is to be torn down next year.
The Wood County Port Authority, which acquired what was once the Toledo Terminal Railroad’s Upper River Bridge five years ago from CSX Transportation, says engineering studies have determined the rusting, 114-year-old hulk to be so unsound that it can’t be renovated for use as part of a bicycle and pedestrian trail along abandoned sections of that railroad.
“It appears that the costs, uncertainties, and future maintenance issues with rehabilitating the existing structure make it the least desirable alternative,” Claude Brown & Associates, a Toledo-based engineering consultant, wrote in a March, 2012, report to the port authority.
Mr. O'Reilly said his goal for the existing structure is to document it thoroughly and preserve its center swing spans, which an ODOT report declared were the only part of the bridge that qualifies for historic status.
ODOT's Office of Environmental Services reported in 2009 that the swing spans, but not the five spans on either side leading up to them, were Register-eligible “as a surviving example of an uncommon type of bridge technology.”
While designed to be able to open for tall-masted vessels, the ODOT report noted that no such openings are known to have occurred, and no evidence exists of any motors or controls on the structure. The parallel turnpike bridge's construction in the early 1950s rendered such capability moot.
But it's the swing spans, which are actually a single, double-cantilevered structure of the Pratt truss design, mounted on a pivot, and their associated pier and end rests that are the bridge's “only significant elements” justifying historic preservation, ODOT said.
The bridge-demolition proposal calls for the swing spans to be saved and made available for some sort of unspecified reuse. Even restoring the swing spans alone, and keeping them and the center pier as part of an otherwise new bridge, would cost nearly $6 million, which is more than double the price to salvage them and replace that portion of the bridge with a modern structure, according to a report prepared for ODOT last year by DGL Consulting Engineers of Maumee.