Move of bridge on hold

LISBON – Moving a historic steel-arch bridge to the Columbiana County Fairgrounds, where it will serve as a pedestrian walkway, is still a year away from occurring, according to county Engineer Bert Dawson.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the county commissioners, Dawson said the project is being held up because the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is requiring an environmental impact study be performed of the area at the fairgrounds where the bridge is to be located. The state also wants the county to perform additional core soil tests off the area where the bridge abutments are to be built.

“We were hoping to have it open by the fair this year but that looks unlikely” because neither study will be completed in time for the plans to be approved, he said. The fair is the week of July 29.

Dawson announced three years ago he planned to do something with the old steel bowstring-arch bridge that once spanned the Middle Fork of the Little Beaver Creek, one of only three left in Ohio from the post Civil War-era. The 105-foot bridge was in place on South Market Street from the middle 19th century until it was replaced with a concrete span in the 1960s.

The bridge was stored on the engineer’s property, and Dawson spent the past 20 years trying to develop a plan for its use before working with the fair board to move the bridge to the fairgrounds, where it will be used to cross a ravine separating the campground and the northern parking lots.

The estimated cost is $575,000, and Dawson has been able to secure the following grants to fund the project: $460,000 from the Ohio Department of Transportation; $40,000 from the commissioners annual federal Community Development Block grant allocation; and $40,000 from the fair board.

This left a funding gap of $35,000, which Dawson hopes to fill by seeking grant money from the state’s allocation of federal Appalachian Regional Commission money. Commissioners voted Wednesday to apply for the grant money, and the Governor’s Office of Appalachia has indicated the application will be approved.

Commissioner Chairman Mike Halleck said they were only too happy to help the project to become a reality.

“It’ll be a great pedestrian access. Plus you’re restoring something historical,” Halleck told Dawson.