Galena bridge project underway in April
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
The 200-foot continuous steel beam bridge over Big Walnut Creek leading out of the east side of the Village of Galena to Sunbury Road and points south, affectionately known to civil engineers as DEL-CR30, is more than 50 years old and structurally deficient. The Delaware County Engineer’s Office website describes the span “… in fair structural condition with notable deterioration of the steel beam superstructure and concrete deck.”
To put it in layman’s terms, the bridge needs complete rehabilitation or replacement, and the county engineer has deemed the bridge a high priority project to ensure that adequate transportation is maintained in the area. A rehabilitation option was taken off the table because the existing bridge foundations would not provide enough support for the additional width needed on the bridge; and the amount of widening that could be done on the existing substructure isn’t enough for the safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians.
An approximately $2 million compete bridge replacement was designed and has already been bid out; Complete General Construction got the contract with construction on the 180-day project scheduled to begin in April.
Project manager Rob Reilly, Chief Deputy Engineer with the county engineer’s office, said during the project’s design phase that staff members in his office and with design consultant EMH&T looked at a number of ways to try to maintain traffic in two directions across the bridge during construction.
According to the project’s page on the engineer’s website there was no way to feasibly maintain two-way traffic during construction because of the high volume of traffic that uses the bridge; and if the bridge were farther away from the intersection, and there was distance for traffic to queue on the approaches, it might have been possible to operate the bridge one lane at a time with a temporary traffic signal, although it would still have caused long delays during peak travel hours.
The design that Complete General signed on to complete included leaving a one-way lane on the old bridge open leading into the village from Sunbury Road, traffic out of the village towards Sunbury Road would be detoured; drivers could come into the village using the bridge, but would use another route leaving the village.
Most Galena residents and business owners were prepared to live with that inconvenience – until Riley emailed Galena Village Administrator Jeanna Burrell and asked Burrell to get everyone’s opinion on a compete bridge closure.
“The plan is designed to have a one direction closure, but we recently received a proposal from the contractor to close the entire bridge,” Riley said during a phone interview last week. “Closing the bridge entirely would reduce construction time from six months to four months; and we’ve emailed village officials and other concerned parties seeking their opinions.”
Late last week, two parties responded to inquiries about the impact of a full bridge closure on their operations – Mudflats Bar & Grill owner Jane White, and Big Walnut Local School District Transportation Supervisor Ron McClure.
In an email she sent to Riley, White said a one-way bridge leading into Galena would deter commerce, as any reasonable detour out of the village would be inconvenient for her customers who live just across that bridge. She also said the speed of the bridge project does not concern her and other Galena business owners as much as the ongoing accessibility to their businesses, their livelihoods and the livelihoods of their employees.
“The months you are proposing the bridge to be closed are some of the highest volume months for our restaurant,” White wrote. “In addition to the loss of business during the closure, our guests would be changing their dining habits, which could greatly deteriorate our future business.”
McClure said a complete bridge closure would, in his words, devastate the school district’s transportation department.
“With the buses we have on the road today we couldn’t get all of our students to school on time,” McClure said. “We would have to put at least seven more buses on the road. When you add in fuel, the people to drive those buses at 6.5 hours per day starting in April of this school year and the start of next year, it adds up to a huge hardship on the school district.”
While McClure was unable to offer a firm cost to his transportation department of a full bridge closure without estimating the cost of getting older reserve buses road-ready, fuel costs, wages and fringe benefits, and added liability insurance costs, he said he was comfortable saying that the closure’s cost to the district when school buses would be on the road during the bridge replacement project – April, May, and the first week of June, the second half of August and through September – would easily exceed $100,000.
“We’re not set up financially to handle a burden like that with our lean budget,” McClure said.
Riley said staff at the county engineer’s office and with Complete General Contracting understands that either a one-way bridge closure or a full bridge closure would have a very real impact on the traveling public and school buses.
“We don’t take these kind of decisions lightly by any means,” Riley said. “That’s why we’re seeking input, and why no decisions have been made yet. But a decision will have to be made soon if construction is going to begin on schedule in April.”