GETTYSBURG — The majestic wrought iron bridge carrying Mill Road over Greenville Creek, just west of Gettysburg, Ohio, has withstood the test of time. Built in 1881 at a cost of $2,968.10, at least 30 years before the presence of motor vehicles, it carried people and goods from that time until 2012.
Since it is located on a quiet rural road with no residences, the Darke County Highway Department has taken steps to preserve this rare piece of local history for the past 38 years.
In 1979, the nearly century-old bridge was rehabilitated with structural repair, painting and a new wood deck and asphalt surface. A restricted load limit was posted due to its age and light design compared to modern heavy loads.
In 2012, in preparation for the Tecumseh Trail, the bridge was again extensively repaired and enhanced by the County Highway Department with work on the structure, abutments, complete painting and a new timber deck and surface. The bridge was then closed to all motor vehicles and limited to bicycles and pedestrians. Two heavy steel barriers set in concrete were placed at each end of the bridge for its protection.
From 1979 until 2012 there have been at least two occasions requiring repairs when vehicles impacted the old bridge. Since 2012, I believed those days were over and the bridge would never again be damaged by a motorist.
My belief was shattered in the early hours of January 24, when a vehicle fleeing law enforcement crashed through the steel barrier and came to rest on the 136-year-old bridge, severely damaging three major components.
It is believed at this time that adequate repairs can be made to keep the bridge open and carrying the light, permissible traffic. My question is, “Why couldn’t this old bridge continue to stand in peace?”
Jim Surber is the Darke County Engineer. His office is responsible for maintaining the county’s roads and bridges. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.