Majority of area’s 10 largest structurally deficient bridges slated for repair

Federal data shows dozens of local bridges are rated poor: some of them are tiny spans, some on major roads

There’s no guaranteeing the lifespan of bridges, but there’s also no denying the importance of their upkeep.

The 10 largest structures in need of repair in the Dayton area are spread across Montgomery, Warren and Miami counties, according to a Dayton Daily News investigation into the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory for Ohio’s more than 27,000 bridges.

Bridge condition is determined by the lowest rating of NBI condition ratings for deck, superstructure, substructure or culvert. If the lowest rating is greater than or equal to 7, the bridge is classified as Good. Bridges rated 5 or 6 are classified as “Fair” and those rating 4 or less are classified as “Poor” and considered structurally deficient.

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In the most recent bridge inventory, the seven-county Dayton region had 87 bridges rated poor — the vast majority of them rated at “4,″ with 11 rated at “3.” Several of them are tiny bridges (less than 100 square feet of deck area), and others don’t even look like bridges to the naked eye, some going over storm sewers.

Most of the 10 largest local bridges rated as “poor” are already either in the process of being fixed or on the schedule for repairs, while the remainder are awaiting funding.

The largest two bridges in need of repair in the region are the Ohio 4 northbound and southbound bridges over Webster Street, just east of Interstate 75 in Dayton. The bridges — both rated at “4″ — are under the auspices of the Ohio Department of Transportation and are scheduled for deck replacements, substructure repairs and new paint, according to spokeswoman Mandi Dillon.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

“Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in spring of 2023 and go through 2024 with an estimated cost of $8 million,” Dillon said.

The cost of the project will be paid through a 50-50 split between state and federal preservation funding, she said. ODOT received the Ohio 4 bridges from the city of Dayton in 2014 as part of the rerouting of Ohio 4.

“Replacement was immediately scheduled after our first inspection in 2015,” Dillon said. “We have performed some temporary work to ensure these bridges are safe.”

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Every bridge inspection in Ohio requires a licensed professional engineer to either perform or review it, according to ODOT spokesman Matt Bruning.

“Inspectors are required to complete 80 hours of initial training and have five years of experience before they can lead an inspection team,” Bruning said. “The federal requirement is that bridges get an inspection once every 24 months.”

In Ohio, many bridges are inspected annually, he said. Only bridges that are in good condition revert back to the federal standard.

“On top of that, bridges with non-redundant steel members are inspected at arm’s length every 24 months, and bridges with underwater components have those looked at every 60 months,” Bruning said. “The frequent inspections allow us to begin planning for repairs or replacement well in advance of issues becoming critical.”

Of the 27,151 bridges in Ohio, 1,334, or 4.9 percent, are classified as structurally deficient, according to a bridge report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. That means one of the key elements is in poor or worse condition.

That’s down from 1,598 bridges classified as structurally deficient in 2017.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

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The Montgomery County Engineer’s Office is in the preliminary phases of planning to fix the Preble County Line Road Bridge over Twin Creek, according to Montgomery County bridge engineer David Shields.

“Conditions of the concrete deck have deteriorated over the years since its construction in 1962,” Shields said. “Deteriorated concrete was removed from the surface and replaced in 1985. Since that date, the county has maintained the surface by patching.”

Construction costs for the bridge could range from $1.5 million for a deck replacement while maintaining the steel beams, to $2.7 million for a complete replacement, Shields said. While MCEO explores funding options, it will continue to maintain the deck to ensure the safety of motorists.

“Although a ‘poor’ rating resulting from inspections sounds scary, it can be maintained safely while funding is arranged,” Shields said.

Montgomery County Engineer Paul Gruner said a deteriorated McEwen Road bridge a few years ago was another example of that, with the engineer posting restricted load limits for a time.

“We closed it until we were able to support the end on jacks, which were in place for a couple of years until we could get it reconstructed,” he said. “We frequently checked on the jacks to be sure that they were functioning properly.”

MCEO also is working to repair the Lamme Road bridge over Holes Creek, on the Miami Township/Moraine line. Constructed in 1954, the three-span adjacent concrete I-beam bridge was identified for replacement in 2017 because of deterioration of the existing concrete I-beams and foundations.

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Credit: JIM NOELKER

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MCEO applied for and received a federal grant to cover 65% of the $2.6 million in construction costs. The remainder of the construction costs will be covered by an Ohio Public Works Commission grant.

Construction for the Lamme Road bridge is scheduled to start in spring 2023 and wrap up next fall.

Earlier this year, the Montgomery County Engineer’s Office repaired the largest “poor-rated” bridge in the region — the Philadelphia Drive bridge over the Stillwater River. It was repaired for just under $2.7 million between April and September. Constructed in 1968, the structure had seen deterioration of the concrete beams and intermediate supports, or piers.

Gruner said his office had always been required to inspect all bridges annually, but the federal requirement has recently changed so that a bridge with a General Appraisal rating of 7 or above (on a scale of 1-9) only needs to be inspected every two years.

“An exception is a newly constructed or newly reconstructed, it needs to be inspected every year for the first three years,” he said. “This is to ensure that there are no serious flaws with the construction.”

MCEO was notified of visible pavement settlement near a bridge on East Main Street in Trotwood immediately west of the Trotwood connector (Ohio 49) and 1.5 miles west of Salem Avenue.

“After an investigation, it was determined that the settlement was caused by soil scouring out from behind the bridge foundation, thus removing support from the pavement,” Shields said. “For safety reasons, the road was closed.”

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The Montgomery County Engineer’s Office is in the process of assembling contract documents for a design-build contract to repair the structure and re-open the road, he said. It anticipates construction will be completed in 2023.

Engineer’s offices and local municipalities take precautions for even the smallest bridges. National Bridge Inventory data shows that a tiny, 2-lane neighborhood bridge on West Avenue in Kettering is rated just a “3″ when it comes to its deck and superstructure condition.

Barriers are now in place on the bridge, limiting traffic to one lane and reducing the load it has to carry.

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WARREN COUNTY

The King Avenue bridge over the Little Miami State and National Scenic River in Warren County was rated a “4″ and currently is being replaced due to concrete on the prestressed concrete box beams cracking and breaking away from the bottom of the beams, said Warren County Engineer Neil Tunison.

The $22 million bridge replacement project that launched in March should be completed sometime this month, Tunison said.

Once the new bridge is open to traffic, the existing bridge will be removed.

Warren County Engineer’s Office state-certified bridge inspectors inspect all county bridges every year following ODOT’s current bridge inspection manual, according to bridge engineer Roy Henson.

“All of our bridges are load-rated, and load ratings are updated after each inspection year as needed,” Henson said. “Based on inspections and updated load ratings certain bridges maybe posted for lower load limits, or programmed for a rehabilitation or replacement with pursuit of design and funding, and in some rare critical cases may require the bridge to be closed to traffic.”

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Credit: Nick Graham

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The Ohio 350 bridge in Warren County half a mile west of Clarksville and the Clinton County line is tentatively scheduled to be replaced starting in 2024, ODOT’s DIllon said. The cost is currently estimated at $2.6 million, Dillon said.

MIAMI COUNTY

Three of the area’s 10 largest poor-rated bridges are in Miami County. The first is the West Peterson Road bridge over the Great Miami River, just east of County Road 25A.

That bridge is scheduled for replacement in 2024 with $5 million of the repairs coming from federal funding, $600,000 from OPWC and $138,000 from local funds.

The second bridge is on Klinger Road over the Stillwater River, just west of Ohio 48 and a mile and a half north of Covington. The Miami County Engineer’s Office will be applying for funding in the near future for the $4 million project, according to County Engineer Paul Huelskamp.

All three bridges are “suffering from deterioration of some sort,” Huelskamp said. “We continue to monitor them and make remedial repairs to ensure the public safety.”

The third Miami County bridge rated “poor” by the FHWA carries Piqua-Lockington Road over the Great Miami River, right by Clevenger Road. The engineer’s office has applied for funding, but has not yet been approved for the $6 million project, Huelskamp said.

All of Miami County’s bridge inspectors are graduate engineers, as well as being specially trained on bridges and how to perform an effective inspection and differentiate between cosmetic and structural deterioration, Huelskamp said.

County engineers and ODOT officials said they inspect bridges when they get calls from concerned residents. But they cautioned not all visible signs of wear are significant.

“Spalling concrete, which is surface concrete that flakes off, can often be mistaken for having a structural impact on a bridge and is the most common generator of questions from the public,” Bruning said.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

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