Sprucevale Road bridge over Little Beaver Creek complete
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Tuesday morning by county Engineer Bert Dawson and featuring the contractor, local public officials and representatives from the various state and federal agencies that assisted in the project.
“It’s something to see. I’ve been at this for a few years and I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” Dawson said of the concrete deck spanning the Middle Fork of the Little Beaver Creek. The deck sits on two concrete I beams totaling 174 feet in length that had to be lowered into place with a crane sitting on concrete pads temporarily placed in the creek this fall.
The new bridge is 32-feet wide, more than twice the width of the 69-year-old one-lane steel-truss bridge it replaced. Dawson said the safety issue created with a one-lane bridge was reason enough to replace the bridge given how many motorists use Sprucevale Road as a shortcut from Calcutta to Rogers and beyond.
Another factor was the steep downward curves leading to both the north and south bridge approaches. Nothing could be do done about the northern approach because that would have required removing a historic grist mill. On the southern approach, there were no such obstacles, so Dawson moved the new bridge farther downstream to lessen the the severity of the hairpin downhill curve.
In 2002, the engineer’s office was awarded federal highway money for the project. The final cost was $2.35 million, with the engineer’s office contributing 10 percent. The contractor was Marucci & Gaffney of Youngstown.
Over the years the project almost became an afterthought because of how long it was taking to get the go-ahead to seek bids from contractors, which finally came in July 2018. Dawson said it was going to be a complicated project from the beginning because Beaver Creek is a national and state-designated Wild and Scenic River, the bridge was in the Gretchen’s Lock section of Beaver Creek State Park and federal dollars were paying for it.
“So there were a lot of hoops we had to jump through, more than we normally have to. There were a lot of more regulations, and I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.
The project involved the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the ODNR’s Scenic Rivers division, the Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service.
Freshwater clams were identified as one of the endangered species found in the section of creek that would be disturbed by construction. Dawson believes they found one clam that needed temporarily relocated during construction and it was supposed to be moved back afterwards. He is not sure if that was ever done.
Another endangered species indigenous to the creek was the hellbender, a large salamander, but none were found.
These two studies, which cost a combined $27,000, were part of the $224,000 Dawson’s office spent complying with the various regulations.
One of the the biggest delays occurred in 2011, when the National Park Service objected to the original design, which called for a single pier in the middle of the creek. Federal officials felt the single pier could pose safety problems for kayakers and canoers. The pier was moved to the shoreline after determining what constituted the highwater mark, which took more than a year to resolve.
The bridge had to be designed in a way that snowmelt and rain did not drain directly into the creek. Instead, a collection system will divert the stormwater and melted snow off the bridge into a leachate bed. That took nearly two years to resolve.
Dawson said it was worth the effort because they now have a safer and distinctive bridge.