- Cornelius Frolik Staff Writer
The ailing Helena Street bridge closes today for about a year as construction begins on one of the final pieces of a $175 million investment in Dayton’s bridge infrastructure.
Since 2004, the city of Dayton has replaced 10 bridges and now has two more under construction.
During the same time period, the state of Ohio and Montgomery County replaced six bridges, and several more projects are under construction or remain in the pipeline .
Crumbling and failing bridges pose a serious threat to public safety, and nearly 59,000 bridges across the United States are structurally deficient, including almost 1,900 in Ohio, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.
But Dayton’s deteriorating bridges have or will be replaced way sooner than city leadership projected because the city was able to secure major allocations from outside funding sources even during some tough economic times, said Steve Finke, Dayton’s deputy director of public works.
“We thought it would take 30 to 40 years to complete them … but we compressed the program from about 30 years to about 15 years,” Finke said.
Last month, the Dayton City Commission approved spending about $6 million to remove and replace the earth-filled arch bridge that connects Riverside Drive with Island MetroPark.
The city awarded the project to Sidney-based Eagle Bridge Co. The Helena Street bridge is 91 years old and its condition has a rough rating of 4 out of 10, officials said.
The bridge closes at 9 a.m. today, and the detour will take motorists across the Ridge Avenue bridge to Embury Park Drive.
Drivers will be directed to North Keowee Street and then to Stanley Avenue.
The new bridge, featuring concrete beams and a concrete pad, is expected to open by Dec. 1, 2017. The structure will have wider sidewalks, improved lighting and a new middle turn lane.
The Eagle Bridge Co. also is replacing the Webster Street bridge, which spans the Mad River near the Water Street District.
The new structure also should open in late 2017.
In the last 12 years, the city has spent more than $53 million replacing eight bridges, according to public works data. The vast majority of the funding came from state and federal sources.
The Ohio Department of Transportation and Montgomery County also have replaced six bridges in the city and work continues on the Harshman Road bridge.
The Montgomery County Engineer plans to replace the Third Street bridge, with construction beginning in 2020, and the Keowee Street bridge, starting in 2018.
In 1999 and 2000, the city hired a consultant to evaluate its largest bridges and developed a replacement program that officials expected would take three decades or longer to complete, said Finke.
But the program will wrap up in about half that time because Dayton was able to obtain state and federal support for its projects, which accounted for about 85 percent of the overall investment, Finke said.
The Helena Street bridge is being paid for using federal construction funds and money from the Ohio Public Works Commission.
“We leveraged a lot of other people’s money, which we love,” said Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph.
City leadership made sure to find local funding matches in its budget for infrastructure upgrades even during tough economic periods because of the significant return on investment, commissioners said.
Most of the bridges the city has or will replace were rated about 4 out of 10 based on their condition, said Finke. Bridges become hazardous when they have a rating of 3 or lower, he said.
The new bridges are expected to last for about 75 years or longer. The first bridge replacement, for Findlay Street, was completed in 2005.
“This is something that will be in place for decades,” said Dayton Commissioner Joey Williams.