Poor County Bridge Conditions Require Load Limits

By
Steve Robb- Athens Messenger staff journalist

Dateline
Updated Wed, Aug 14, 2013 9:43 am

We’re No. 1!

Unfortunately, Athens County is tops in the state of Ohio when it comes to having bridges that require load limits because of their condition, according to County Engineer Jeff Maiden.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the county commissioners, Maiden held up a map showing the statewide distribution of bridges over 10 feet in length that are posted with load limits or closed. The map is based on there being 113 in Athens County — the highest number of any county in the state, according Maiden (who said there are actually 115).

Maiden brought the map, which he got from the president of the County Engineers Association of Ohio — to illustrate why he thinks it’s a good idea that he have a fabrication building to make precast concrete bridge components and concrete box culverts. He said Hocking, Auglaize and Tuscawaras Counties have such in-house operations and also have much lower numbers of bridges with weight limits — Hocking County has none, Maiden said.

Of the 113 (or 115) bridges in Athens County that have load limits, 46 are 20 feet or longer, meaning that the majority are smaller bridges that would lend themselves to having parts prefabricated in-house, Maiden said.

Maiden said there are times — such as when it’s raining — that his employees have down time and could work on fabricating bridge parts.

In May, Maiden presented the commissioners cost estimates for $1.6 million in facilities improvements he said are needed at the engineer’s department, including $663,440 for the fabrication building.

Maiden would like to see the commissioners seek bond financing for the improvements.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Commissioner Chris Chmiel said of the fabrication building. “I think he’s trying to maximize the workers’ time.”

Commissioner Lenny Eliason said if the project is included in a bond issuance the money to make the bond payments relating to the fabrication building would have to come from Maiden’s budget. Maiden said that since he doesn’t know what the payments would be, he doesn’t know if his budget can afford it.

Some of the improvements proposed by Maiden are improvements to the actual engineer’s building at Canaanville. Eliason said that since the building is owned by the commissioners, bond payments on those improvements could be made by the commissioners.

The commissioners have been discussing issuing a bond to pay for a number of projects, including creation of a records center, energy improvements to buildings, a new Athens station for Athens County Emergency Medical Service and other projects.

Eliason said he expects the commissioners will be deciding this fall what projects the county can afford and which ones to include in a bond issuance.

 

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