Bridge and culvert load rating surveys are under way across Ottawa County this summer.
“It’s part of a federal mandate to be expedited in the wake of the Minnesota tragedy,” Ottawa County Engineer Dave Brunkhorst said.
In August 2007, an eight-lane bridge clogged with evening rush-hour traffic buckled and sent vehicles plunging into the Mississippi River. Thirteen died and about 145 were injured.
The historic incident triggered a wave of concern regarding the safety of the some 600,000 bridges across the United States.
The federal government and Ohio require updates, one annually and the other bi-annually for any bridge over 20 feet long located on publicly owned highways and roads.
Load rating analysis of bridges is performed to determine the live load that structures can safely carry. Bridges are rated at three different stress levels. This may lead to load restrictions of the bridge or identification of components that require rehabilitation or other modification to avoid posting of the bridge.
Ottawa County Commissioners met with Brunkhorst in late May to approve a study agreement for the bridge and culvert rating project with the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Brunkhorst’s staff has done some of the footwork. Now, a consultant group will step in for around $31,000 to gather additional information and put together key computations necessary for the required study, Brunkhorst said.
Motorists are likely to see a number of crews out studying the bridges and culverts in coming weeks. Survey crews will be along the roadways in other areas also.
Genoa has four bridges in town. The village is responsible for three of the four, said Genoa Village Administrator Kevin Gladden. The fourth is under the jurisdiction of the state of Ohio.
This spring, Genoa council gave its consultant – Poggemeyer Design Group of Bowling Green – the go ahead to complete its bridge update.
Brunkhorst said most of the bridges are in decent condition but the county has instituted a steady replacement program for the problem spans. The federal government provides matching funding. At present, the match percentages for Ottawa County are 80/20, with the county carrying the lower percentage. And for each completed project, the county accumulates credit through the Ohio Department of Transportation that helps cut costs on future projects.
One example, said Brunkhorst, is the recent half-million dollar reconstruction of the Benton-Carroll Road bridge. The feds contributed $400,000. And when all the credits were calculated, the county share was only $25,000.
To capitalize on these savings, the fiscal hurdles can be mind numbing.
“You have to go through a lot of paperwork,” the engineer said. “But it’s worth it. I talk about stretching the dollar and doing more with less. Now we do less with nothing and find ways to offset the nothing.”