Troubled bridge

Columbus Public Service Director Mark Kelsey has ordered the permanent closure of the Town Street Bridge across the Scioto River, effective at 7 p.m. on July 22.

Kelsey made the decision after conferring with the Ohio Department of Transportation, whose latest inspection downgraded the structural condition of the 90-year-old bridge.

"In the absence of guarantees of structural integrity and assurances of safety for motorists and pedestrians, the only responsible decision is to permanently close the bridge," Kelsey said.

An estimated 9,850 cars, trucks and buses and 1,000 pedestrians cross the Town Street Bridge every week day.  

When ODOT inspected the Town Street Bridge on July 18, its bridge inspectors and engineers found "additional deterioration and a noticeable bulge on the arch."

There were also signs of some minor movement on the bridge deck above. Those conditions downgraded the inspection rating from a 3 to a 2 (on a scale of 0 to 9 with 9 being the highest).

The state of Ohio mandates that a bridge with a rating of 2 or less should be closed or closely monitored.

"For the last seven years, ODOT District 6 bridge inspectors and engineers have closely monitored the Town Street Bridge on a quarterly basis," ODOT District 6 Deputy Director Tom Wester said. "When we discovered the latest conditions, we immediately worked with the city of Columbus to take proper action to preserve safety."

Kelsey said the decision to close the bridge, rather than monitor conditions and reduce load restrictions, was based in part on the city’s experience with the Main Street Bridge.

Deteriorating conditions prompted the city to impose weight restrictions on the Main Street Bridge in June 2002, but few complied. The city permanently closed the bridge a few weeks later.

"We’re fortunate that we still have good alternatives for people to get into and out of downtown," Kelsey said, "including the Broad Street Bridge and I-670."

Work on a new Main Street Bridge began in September 2006. In July, crews completed installation of the inclined arch, the centerpiece of the $52 million bridge. It is scheduled to open to pedestrian and vehicular traffic in late 2009 or early 2010.

The Town Street Bridge is scheduled to be replaced with a $28.5 modern, concrete rib-arch bridge. The bridge had been scheduled to close in January 2009 for the start of demolition. The new bridge, to be called the Rich Street Bridge, is expected to open to traffic in late 2011.

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