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$2.4M Oxbow Bridge reconstruction slated for summer

A 60-day reconstruction of the Oxbow Bridge on Richland Avenue is scheduled for this summer, which, if the project falls behind schedule, could keep a major campus road closed during the start of the fall 2012 semester.

Because it will be the first year Ohio University is on a semester calendar, classes will begin earlier in the summer. The $2.4 million renovation of the 80-year-old bridge is currently slated to begin after graduation in June.

“We’re going to be doing it as fast as possible (because) school will start earlier,” said Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl.  “It’s going to be a rushed job, but it’s going to be done.”


An Ohio Department of Transportation Bridge Inventory Report completed in 2009 gave the bridge a sufficiency rating of 43.5 percent, stating that the bridge was structurally deficient, said city project manager Jessica Adine in an email. She added that structures rated below 80 percent are candidates for rehabilitation.

In January 2010, she said the city received Municipal Bridge Program funds, a $2.5 million grant administered by the ODOT.


“Through the grant, ODOT will provide 80 percent of construction and construction engineering costs,” she said. “The city will be responsible for covering the remaining cost.”

The city began the process of selecting an engineering firm last summer, Adine said.

“We have been working with the design engineering firm to complete the construction plans, and expect the plans to be completed this fall,” Adine said.


The future renovations include rebuilding the concrete deck and replacing the sidewalks with pedestrian walkways protected by crash-tested railing, she said.

“Decorative, dark-skies compliant street lights will be installed,” she said. “The rehabilitation project will also include patching the abutments, wing-walls and piers, and repainting the existing exposed steel.”


In order to complete construction in the time frame, the bridge will be closed to traffic for 60 days, she added.

“The City has developed a vehicular and pedestrian detour plan that will be in place during the closure period,” Adine said. “Access to Ohio University buildings will be maintained, but a section of Richland Avenue will be completely closed during construction.”

Athens City Councilwoman Christine Knisely said she expects the process to run smoothly.

“Our public works department is so careful,” she said.  “I have every confidence that they will make planning to make sure people are safe.”

Adine said the project will most likely be fully completed in October, adding that some construction, such as sub-structure repairs, cleaning and painting, will be finished outside the time frame.

Although much of the bridge will be rehabilitated, she said that one of its longtime characteristics will remain the same.


“It was originally constructed in 1932, before the Hocking River was relocated in the 1970s,” she said. “An important part of this project is to preserve the historical character of the bridge, which is why we are preserving and re-using the existing railing.”

Still, Wiehl stressed that reconstruction is necessary for the deteriorating bridge. 


“The goal is to make a bridge that will last another 70 years,” Wiehl said.

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