VERSAILLES — This summer, residents of Versailles will see construction commencing on the village’s oldest bridge.
Long due for replacement, the Center Street Bridge, also know as “Creekside Bridge,” has carried traffic over Swamp Creek in Versailles since 1930.
Construction is anticipated to take place from July to November. Drivers should expect some delays as traffic on Center Street will be detoured on other village streets during construction.
Darke County Engineer Jim Surber says the two-span concrete bridge was originally built with a roadway width of 24 feet between curbs, and with 5-foot sidewalks on each side next to a concrete railing. The cost of the bridge 86 years ago was $14,284.
Of the 531 bridges on county and township roads in Darke County, the Center Street bridge is the 15th oldest, according to county records. There are 14 older bridges, ranging from 139 years (1877) to 88 years (1928). There are 516 bridges newer than the Center Street bridge.
Over the years, the Center Street bridge has seen some alterations, among these removal of the west sidewalk, and the east sidewalk narrowed to provide more width for vehicle traffic.
“Time and the elements have taken their toll on the bridge, besides the fact that it was designed for much less and much lighter traffic than it has been subjected to in more recent years,” said Surber.
Under the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) sufficiency rating system, the Center Street Bridge is rated at 42.6 percent, giving it a “poor” rating.
Low-rated bridges like this are characterized as “functionally obsolete and structurally deficient,” says Surber.
“It is in critical need of replacement,” he added.
Ohio law makes the bridge the responsibility of the county engineer as well as the village. Surber says the project to gain funding to replace and rehabilitate the bridge began nearly five years ago.
The estimated construction cost of the project, including inspection, is $656,000. Eighty percent of the cost will be federally funded with 20 percent locally funded, split between the county and village.
Working with the ODOT, Surber and his staff have designed a new structure that will replace the old. The work will be done by a contractor after ODOT sells the contract for the project June 16.
Two years ago, Darke County’s Highway Department began using its own crews for new bridge construction as a cost-saving measure for taxpayers. However, the county is restricted in this instance by state law, as any bridge project costing more than $100,000 must be performed by a state-hired contractor.
The contractor will remove the old bridge superstructure and center pier, reface and reconstruct the supporting portions of the present abutment foundations, and construct two new piers on the sides of the channel. The new 18-inch thick concrete slab superstructure will have three spans of 26 feet, 32.5 feet, and 26 feet and will provide more clearance and capacity for flood waters.
The new bridge will be 30 feet between curbs, with 4-foot sidewalks on each side, and concrete parapets with twin-tube steel railings. It is designed to carry all modern, legal loads.
Surber said designing the bridge was “tricky,” citing numerous considerations, such as multiple electric lines, a sanitary sewer line, the closeness of properties to the bridge, and environmental concerns related to Swamp Creek.
“We’ve gone through significant red tape for this project,” he explained, noting that ODOT was “very helpful” dealing with environmental regulations.
Though the bridge is in need of replacement, Surber cited two bridges in the county rated lower than the one spanning Center Street.
“One is on Mill Road over Greenville Creek — which is physically restricted to two-wheel vehicles and pedestrians — and the other a bridge on Hickory Drive in the Village of Wayne Lakes, which was bypassed and a new structure built 12 to 15 years ago. The poorly rated structure is closed to all traffic,” he said.