The extreme weather this year has played havoc on the Clinton Street bridge replacement project, causing multiple delays and pushing the expected opening back at least one month.
Extreme cold weather delayed the start of the $8.3 million project for two weeks — from Feb. 11 to Feb. 25 — and heavy rain in April and May caused the Maumee River to rise and delayed work at least twice, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which is overseeing work on the downtown Defiance bridge.
The weather delays have pushed back the date the bridge is anticipated to reopen from Nov. 22 until late December, or beyond, Rhonda Pees, ODOT District 1 spokesperson, said Wednesday after visiting the site and consulting with Bashar Kanouh, area engineer for ODOT District 1.
“The water levels we’ve seen in the river this spring are the highest in quite some time, according to folks in the Defiance area. The water level is keeping work within the river from occurring and is the reason the project is currently behind schedule,” Pees said, though she added, “There is always the possibility that some of that lost time can be made back up.”
About 27,320 vehicles a day traveled over the bridge, which carried state routes 15, 18 and 66 over the river. The detours are the Domersville Road/Ohio 281 bridge to the east, and the U.S. 24 bridge over the Maumee River to the west.
While the bridge is due to reopen to traffic by the end of this year, the actual official completion date, when all construction items are completed, is June 2020. Great Lakes Construction Company, of Hinckley, Ohio, is the general contractor.
Pees said workers are demolishing the last pier below the water line on the south side of the bridge, while work on the south abutment wall and sanitary lines is underway.
“On Monday, we poured one of the piers for the abutment wall and expect to pour the second this (past) week,” Pees said. “Even though work in the river has been hampered, we’ve been creative in re-sequencing the work to keep some things actually ahead of schedule.”
Pees said the north bridge abutment wall is complete, as are the beam seats, which are the places on the abutment wall where the bridge beams will sit, or attach.
“In a couple weeks we expect to resume work on the retaining wall on the shared use path, which will accommodate pedestrian and bicycle traffic beneath the bridge. Also ahead of schedule is the storm sewer work on the north side,” she said.
ODOT said workers have reported some interesting finds from the project recently, including unearthing two wagon axles on the north side of the bridge and submerged timbers from what is believed to be a horse livery on the south side of the bridge.
“The timber appears to have mortise and tenon features and a signature wooden peg is seen in one log,” Pees said. “Paul Hixon with Great Lakes Construction, our contractor on the project, said he found the timber while digging in the location where a drainage pipe will be located ... it’s definitely old and from the 1800s, we believe.”
She invited any local historians who have information to share about the bridge or nearby buildings to call ODOT District 1 at 419-999-6803, or email: D01.PIO@dot.ohio.gov.
Chris Hughes, capital programs administrator for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the project was undertaken because the bridge, built in 1932, was deteriorating, with particular stress on the concrete box beams, and after careful engineering studies, just making repairs was deemed to be not feasible for the long term.
The new bridge is a “full replacement” that when complete will have four lanes — two in each direction; five-foot-wide bike lanes on each side; and a 10-foot-wide sidewalk on the west side and eight-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side.
The bridge will also feature scenic pedestrian “lookouts” on each side of the bridge, plus decorative concrete railing and lighting and other aesthetic enhancements. The bridge’s current four piers will be replaced by five piers that will be offset from the current locations of the piers to ensure a firm foundation.
In addition, a new “shared use” roadway will be built on land on the north side along the river bank and underneath the bridge. Defiance City Administrator Jeffrey Leonard said the “shared use” roadway is part of a comprehensive strategy to enhance the river and other natural features for the community that will take place over the next 10 to 20 years.