Finances for Wally Road bridge project covered

Finances for Wally Road bridge project covered

Image Credit: Dave Mast

The bridge on County Road 23 near Loudonville isn’t an ordinary bridge, and the upcoming construction of a covered bridge there is no regular undertaking, according to Holmes County engineer Chris Young.

Young met with the Holmes County commissioners on Monday, April 18 when they passed a resolution authorizing the county to borrow from the Ohio Department of Transportation State Infrastructure Bank to provide loan financing for the bridge project this summer.

The bank loan will be in the amount of $4 million, and according to Young, the rapid deterioration of the bridge resulted in a need to act quickly, despite the length of time the project has been discussed.

“It’s our largest structure in the county,” Young said of the bridge. “It has been in the planning for seven years, and seven years ago it was projected to cost just over $5 million. That has really changed these last few years. I got the estimate last week, and it was up to $8.5 million.”

Young said the county has already obtained federal bridge funds for the project through the County Engineer’s Association of Ohio, but unfortunately, there is a $5 million cap on those funds.

Young said the cap has been in place for over 30 years, although he will speak in front of the County Engineer’s Association of Ohio committee soon to try to get that number to rise.

He said the committee will listen, especially with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine putting an extra $45 million into the statewide bridge program.

“I’m hoping that makes a difference,” Young said of trying to receive more funding, noting even though Mohican County was denied funding recently, the engineer’s office there would throw its support behind Young’s effort.

The bridge is on Wally Road, crossing the Mohican River. It is located about 1 mile within Holmes County’s borders. Young said if this were any normal circumstance, he would delay the project, but several key issues have forced the county to act quickly.

He said with prices skyrocketing and the busy schedule of contractors, it would be wise to delay the project. However, he said the county needs the $4 million to file plans the second week of May, with the job opening in July and hopes of completing it by Memorial Day.

He said through the county’s annual inspection process, he has noted a great deal of wear and tear on the bridge. He said last year the county posted the weight limitation on the bridge to 15 tons, and several weeks ago that number dropped to 10 tons, forcing the county to make travel across the bridge one-lane.

“That thing is deteriorating fast, and if it goes another year, we would probably have to end up closing it,” Young said. “It’s got to be built. We can’t delay it because it would be devastating to their economy out there if we delayed it or shut the structure down.”

Young said because of supply-chain issues, the county has hired a consultant to work with the ongoing effort to build the bridge in a timely fashion.

“These supply-chain issues are delaying jobs by months,” Young said. “We don’t want this one to be delayed.”

He said the reason for that urgency is there are more than 1 million visitors to the Mohican River campground and canoeing area each year, and they rely on that business during the summer and fall months to propel the economy.

Young said canoe liveries can’t take their buses across the bridge to pick up people, so they have had to make other plans. He also said Lost Horizon Campground, which is next to the bridge, could see major back-up due to the bridge construction.

“We don’t want to inhibit any of that, if possible,” Young said. “This structure is critical.”

The design for the construction includes a covered bridge that will span 300 feet with a width of 24 feet and a height of 14 feet, 9 inches. There also will be sidewalks included in the bridge project.

“There’s a lot of moving parts, but we’ve got a good inspection team and a good design team working with ODOT on problems during the construction,” Young said. “We applied for this seven years ago, and there have been delays because of COVID issues and environmental clearances. Those were big hurdles.”

He said they had to deal with right-of-way issues during the negotiating process.

“These projects take a lot of time when you’re dealing with federal funds,” Young said, noting it usually takes at least five years to complete acquiring funding for larger projects.

Young said the loan will be paid off using the county’s motor vehicle funds.