Repairs closing downtown bridge sooner than was planned

Those who use a well-traveled pedestrian bridge over the Mad River to get between two popular downtown parks will need to take a detour for the foreseeable future, as it wore down much earlier than anticipated.

Five Rivers MetroParks has shut down the bridge connecting RiverScape and Deeds Point MetroParks after discovering corrosion that could put it at risk of instability or collapse.

The parks system will now have to pay for major repairs much earlier it expected, and those who enjoy the passage with downtown and parks views without passing traffic will face a different path.

The 440-foot bridge was constructed as part of the roughly $30 million RiverScape project. Officials say they do not know how much it could cost to repair the structure, which is 15 years old and should have a lifespan of at least double that.

Pedestrian traffic that used the bridge is being detoured to the Webster Street Bridge, which is a short walk to the east.

This is the second time in three years that the park system has closed a popular amenity because of safety and stability concerns long ahead of the normal anticipated replacement schedule. The Cox Arboretum Tree Tower reopened this year after its closure for about 20 months for repairs.

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“It’s with an abundance of caution that we closed it,” said Carrie Scarff, Five Rivers MetroParks chief of planning and projects.

The Montgomery County Engineer’s Office during its annual inspection of the Deeds Point pedestrian bridge found deterioration in the metal truss of the structure that supports the deck, Scarff said.

Late last year, MetroParks placed barriers on both ends of the bridge to ensure that motorized vehicles could not use the structure. That move came after the county engineer office’s 2017 inspection, which recommended removing all motorized traffic from the bridge.

Small MetroParks utility vehicles occasionally used the pedestrian bridge to cross the Mad River. MetroParks also received reports about cars crossing the structure.

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MetroParks expects to work with a consultant to figure out what is causing the bridge to rust and then will decide next steps, Scarff said.

“We are still going through the analysis of what the issue is exactly,” she said.

The pedestrian bridge, which closed in late October, was not at risk of collapse with its normal use but could become dangerous if it ever was packed with large crowds of people, Scarff said.

“That’s never happened in the history of the bridge, but we’re not going to take any chances with a public safety issue like that,” she said.

The bridge was designed by Steadfast Bridges, and the contractor on the project was Mainline Road and Bridge Construction, officials said. Scarff said MetroParks will update the public as officials find out more about what’s going on with the bridge.

Earlier this year, MetroParks reopened the Cox Arboretum Tree Tower after shutting it down for about 20 months. The park system closed the 65-foot tower after finding rot in its wooden support beams.

The tower, which opened in 2012, cost about $475,000 to build. MetroParks approved spending as much as $390,465 to repair the structure, which included replacing the support logs.

When it opened more about 17 years ago, RiverScape ran into problems when the $4.5 million fountain in the Great Miami River didn’t work as designed.

The fountain’s five streams of water were supposed to meet in the middle of the river to provide a backdrop for laser shows. But that didn’t happen because of problems with the streams.

Montgomery County sued and received $3 million as part of a settlement against multiple companies involved in the fountain project.

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