I-71 back open, but work still needed to demolish old bridge

The final steel spans of the old Jeremiah Morrow bridge are to be imploded Sunday. It is the third demolition prompting the closing of Interstate 71 in the area. Staff photo by Lawrence Budd

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The final steel spans of the old Jeremiah Morrow bridge are to be imploded Sunday. It is the third demolition prompting the closing of Interstate 71 in the area. Staff photo by Lawrence Budd

UPDATE @ 12:30 p.m. May 14

I-71 was shut down for a third time this morning to accommodate work to remove a stubborn portion of the old Jeremiah Morrow Bridge, but more work is required, according to Matt Bruning, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The bridge was reopened to traffic before 11 a.m. after a planned five-hour shut down. Bruning said part of the effort this morning was successful, but complications continue to foil efforts to bring down part of the southbound span of the old bridge.

“The north side of the final section came down as planned, but we are still having complications with the south end,” Bruning said.

Bruning said the bridge was reopened at the promised time, but work will have to resume at a later date to finish the demolition part of the project.


The Ohio Department of Transportation must be hoping the third time is a charm for the implosion of the old Jeremiah Morrow Bridge.

For the third time in the past four weeks, a stretch of Interstate 71 in Warren County was to be closed on Sunday from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. to ensure safety of the public, while state transportation officials and the contractor hired to do the job went back to work on the final piece of the old south span of the bridge.

Explosives were used in an attempt to implode the old southbound span on Sunday, April 23, but part of the bridge remained standing. A week later, another detonation failed to implode the remaining piece of the span.

The demolition contractor, Demtech, could not be reached this week. Its contract with the general contractor, Kokosing Construction sets the price of the project at $3 million, including removal of all debris.

Once the bridge project is completed, probably next fall, ODOT and Kokosing, are expected to settle up accounts. Issues such as the demolition delays could come into play, said Brian Cunningham, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

WATCH: Section of Jeremiah Morrow Bridge is imploded

Previously, ODOT had announced it would not be closing the road, trail or river to demolish the steel structure remaining after demolition attempts on two previous Sunday mornings.

A crane would finish the job.

“That’s what we were hoping,” Cunningham said.

RELATED: Bridge implosion misfires

»MORE: Video story on completion of Morrow bridge construction

Further study determined the closures were again necessary.

The remaining steel is “so entangled,” ODOT and the contractors are concerned it could hit the new bridge, Cunningham said.

“If we didn’t have the bridge closed, we could have some big-time trouble,” Cunningham added.

The Mother’s Day closure - of the interstate between Ohio 73 and Ohio 48, ramps, rest areas and stretches of the bike path and Little Miami River, as well as the flight path around the bridge - is expected to disrupt some celebratory plans.

“It is an inconvenience for the public,” Cunningham said.

The closing coincides with opening of the season for Morgan’s Canoe Livery, office manager Kaysa Kalback said.

“We weren’t going to run it this weekend anyway,” Kalback said.

Regardless of the closure, heavy rains left logjam and debris on the section running from Corwin south past Fort Ancient and under the bridge rendering the route impassable, she said.

» EARLIER: I-71 bridge, Ohio’s tallest, nears completion after 6 years, $104M

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The charges will be set, leading to a countdown to the implosion and then inspections of the new bridge and the imploded remains.

While closures could stretch until 11 a.m., Cunningham said ODOT was hoping to reopen sooner.


For six years, this newspaper has covered the construction of the new Jeremiah Morrow Bridge and implosion of the old structure carrying Interstate 71 over the Little Miami River in Warren County. We will continue to bring you the latest news and updates on road and bridge construction throughout the area.

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