An architect’s rendering shows how Montgomery County’s most expensive bridge project - a planned $21.6 million span of Third Street across the Great Miami River - will look when the project is completed by the end of 2022. A panel at right honors the Dayton poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. SUBMITTED / CREATIVE DESIGN RESOLUTIONS, INC.

Construction on Third Bridge to start sooner than expected

The county will begin accepting bids on the estimated $18.8 million reconstruction of the Third Street bridge with the expected approval of a resolution today by Montgomery County commissioners. Planning, design work and environmental clearances will push the total cost of the project to more than $21 million, said Montgomery County Engineer Paul Gruner.

“It’s not the longest, but it’s the most expensive because of the length and width and the aesthetics on it,” he said. “It’s a big project for us.”

RELATED: Bridges have been at this local spot about 180 years. A new $21M one is coming.

At 840-feet, the county’s longest bridge carries Rip Rap Road over the Great Miami River, but no other is as symbolic as the Third Street bridge where downstream the river divides the city of Dayton by east and west — and historically white and black.

Today known as the Peace Bridge, the span links downtown with many significant sites, including those associated with Paul Laurence Dunbar and the Wright brothers. But for much of its history since 1904 when the current structure was first built, the bridge failed to bring people together.

The new bridge will speed further change, said Dayton artist Willis “Bing” Davis, whose studio is just blocks away.

“It’s more than a bridge, it’s breaking down a barrier,” said Davis, who was hired to help guide artistic elements of the bridge, including unique tablatures worked into the bridge’s design.

Davis said the new bridge will be “special from beginning to end” with artwork to celebrate civil rights, women who shaped Dayton history, the area’s funk music legacy and the Tuskegee Airmen.

MORE: Kettering OKs additional money for bridge projects with artwork

Preliminary work at the site could begin by the end of July after a contract is awarded, Gruner said. Initially, the county didn’t expect work to begin until 2020 and wrap up in 2022. Gruner said Monday the roughly two-year project should be completed in 2021.

The new 721-foot long bridge will replace the existing structure that underwent a major rehabilitation last in 1949. About 11,700 vehicles cross the bridge daily, according to the county.

The new Third Street bridge made of pre-stressed concrete beams will be wider to accommodate a center two-way left turn lane. Plans show it will include four overlooks split between a 10-foot-wide northern sidewalk and a 17-foot-wide southern shared-use path. The existing bridge has eight-foot sidewalks.

MORE: County’s $21.6 million bridge project will be its biggest ever

The bridge required emergency repairs in 2010-2011, though officials said at the time it wasn’t at risk of collapsing. Like about 30 others in the county, the seven-span bridge is now rated structurally deficient and in poor condition. Some can no longer safely carry some of the traffic they were designed for, Gruner said.

“We’ve got load reductions posted on 15 to 20 bridges now,” he said. “Those essentially close the roads for … trucks that exceed the limits. It’s essential and we try to keep them open as much as we can.”

The county maintains 520 bridges.

“They are all deteriorating a little each day,” Gruner said. “As soon as we get one replaced, another one pops up in bad condition.”

MORE: Keowee Street bridge work enters important phase

A $12 million replacement of Keowee Street bridge is on schedule to be completed around the first of September, Gruner said. The decking, sidewalks are down and a portion of the railing is up. The bridge, which links Dayton with Northridge in Harrison Twp. to the north, did not take a direct hit from last week’s tornado that ripped through the area just to the north, he said.

Commissioners approved spending $770,000 last month to rehabilitate a bridge on Mad River Road over Hole’s Creek in Washington Twp. Those bids will be opened Wednesday.

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