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

Montgomery County’s biggest ever bridge project — a planned $21.6 million span of Third Street across the Great Miami River — will replace a structure that has sometimes carried negative perceptions into West Dayton with a new artistic symbol of unity for the region, say those working on the project.

“It’s more than a bridge, it’s breaking down a barrier,” said Dayton artist Bing Davis, who was hired by the county to help design the bridge, he said, “unique and special from beginning to end.”

Design work began in 2013 on the new span, but dirt won’t be turned until 2020, according to the county. In the meantime, Davis, the celebrated Dayton artist with a studio just blocks from the bridge, and others took part in a process that included several public meetings between 2014 and 2016.

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Also known as the Peace Bridge, the span links downtown with many of Dayton’s most historically-significant sites, including those associated with Paul Laurence Dunbar and the Wright brothers.

Those historic figures as well as Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 march on Washington, which is commemorated every year locally with a march over the Peace Bridge, will be recognized in bas-relief sculptures planned for two of the bridge’s piers that face the recreation trails on either bank, said Montgomery County Engineer Paul Gruner.

“It’s really a piece of art and an historic monument right in the middle of downtown,” Gruner said. “It’s going to be a key feature of Dayton for a long period of time.”

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Tablatures on the bridge will also celebrate women who shaped Dayton history, local civil rights activists, the area’s funk music legacy and the Tuskegee Airmen.

Originally built in 1904, the seven-span bridge is now rated structurally deficient and in poor condition. The bridge required emergency repairs in 2010-2011, though officials said at the time it wasn’t at risk of collapsing.

Currently, the seven-span steel bridge carries about 11,700 vehicles day. The new bridge will be made of pre-stressed concrete beams and designed to carry 15,000 daily, according to the county engineer’s office.

Land acquisition for the 721-foot bridge is the focus of a Montgomery County Commission hearing today. The step is required because some riverfront owned by the Miami Conservancy District, the city of Dayton, as well as public land overseen by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, will need to be used during construction. Part of the land will permanently accommodate the new bridge, which will be wider than the existing structure constructed that underwent a major rehabilitation last in 1949.

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The county stands to gain about 9 acres in temporary easements and another 1.9 acres in permanent easements. About a tenth of an acre will come under county ownership outright, according to Gruner.

“In this case it’s a friendly acquisition, it’s the city and Conservancy District,” Gruner said.

The work will include four overlooks.

The new bridge will also be wider to accommodate a center two-way left turn lane as well as a 10-foot-wide northern sidewalk and a 17-foot-wide southern shared-use path. Both replace existing 8-foot sidewalks, plans show.

While the construction phase of the Third Street bridge won’t get underway for another two years, the county’s focus is now on the Keowee Street bridge rebuilding project.

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The replacement of the Keowee Street bridge over the Great Miami River between Dayton and Harrison Twp. got off to a slow start earlier this year as workers had difficulty boring a water line under the river. But crews are back on schedule to complete the $9.3 million, five-lane bridge by September 2019, Gruner said.

Drivers are also contending with an Ohio Department of Transportation rebuild of the Main Street bridge that carries State Route 48 traffic through downtown Dayton. The 8.8 million project is expected to wrap up in the fall of 2019.

Davis said the design process along on the Third Street bridge — not scheduled to be completed until December 2022 — was a long process, but one necessary to make it “extraordinary in terms of making a bridge a real bridge, not only physically, but spiritually and culturally and socially.”

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