Members of the Orange Road Bridge task force are balancing cost with practicality as they work to save the historic span.

Members of the Orange Road Bridge task force are balancing cost with practicality as they work to save the historic span.

At a July 23 meeting of the Liberty Township Board of Trustees, the group presented new cost estimates indicating that leaving the bridge in its current, historically accurate location would be the most cost-effective plan -- at least in the short term.

The volunteer group is exploring ways to preserve the structurally unsound bridge, located just east of Olentangy River Road and south of the new bridge that replaced it after county officials ordered it renovated or closed in 2009.

Regardless of where the bridge ultimately ends up -- assuming it's not the scrap pile -- its component parts will be disassembled and reinforced first.

The estimated cost of placing it back in its original spot is $998,000. That's about $10,000 less than the estimated cost of moving the bridge to a local park, where it could stand as an outdoor "museum."

That's because moving the bridge would introduce new costs, mostly to prepare the new site for the bridge. Major costs include the removal of abutments at the current site and construction of abutments at a new site. Abutments are the reinforced walls at either side of a river bank designed to support a bridge.

Other costs associated with moving the bridge include realignment and possibly the development of a bike path if the bridge is incorporated as part of a path at a local park.

Many of the new costs were estimated by studying the 2010 renovation of Big Run Road Bridge in Knox County, which is similar to the Orange Road Bridge.

No matter which plan is selected, the Delaware County engineer's office has agreed to chip in roughly $366,000 -- the amount it would cost to simply remove and scrap the bridge.

The remainder of the costs could be covered by grants. About nine potential grants have been identified so far, and task force member Jim Bresnahan said he's confident the group could obtain the necessary funding.

In the long run, however, moving the bridge could be the cheaper option.

Keeping it in its original location spanning the Olentangy River would keep it subject to strict, ongoing maintenance regulations as part of the state's Scenic Rivers Program.

That would boost the annual maintenance costs from $1,500 to roughly $2,000.

Regardless, task force members largely support keeping the bridge in place to preserve its historical integrity.

"If we were going for historical accuracy and authenticity, it would stay where it is," Bresnahan said.

The decision ultimately will be made by the board of trustees, in conjunction with the county engineer's office.

At the July 23 meeting, trustees Curt Sybert and Melanie Leneghan expressed an inclination to move the bridge to make it more accessible to the public. The current location has few opportunities for parking, as well as restrictions on the bridge's public use.

Possible new locations include Liberty Park, Havener Park or somewhere in the Preservation Parks system.

Task members hope to increase the bridge's educational value by outfitting it with signs indicating its historical significance.

A decision probably will be made by the end of the year, Bresnahan said.

The township likely would take ownership of the bridge after it is renovated and relinquished by the county.

The bridge currently is unsafe even for pedestrians and was closed to vehicles in 2007 after inspections revealed significant structural deterioration.

The discovery prompted the engineer's office to take action. In 2009, the road was rerouted over a new, wider bridge.