Olentangy Valley News

Orange Road

Plan to move historic bridge starting to come together

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The historic Orange Road Bridge likely will be saved, but not in its original location spanning the Olentangy River.

At a May 8 meeting, the Liberty Township board of trustees made preliminary plans for the structurally unsound bridge to be deconstructed and moved to span Wildcat Run in Liberty Township Park, located at the southwest corner of Home and Liberty roads.

The trustees voted 3-0 to pass a resolution stating the township will make a "best-efforts" commitment to raise the funds necessary for the relocation of the bridge, located just east of Olentangy River Road and south of the new bridge that replaced it in 2007.

The trustees' pledge is part of an agreement with the Delaware County engineer, who will see that the bridge is disassembled and the pieces are stored until the necessary funds are raised to repair and reconstruct it.

According to tentative plans, it would become part of a path over Wildcat Run.

Task force members and township staff said enough money could be raised through grants and private donations over the next several years to move the bridge.

The total estimated cost to the township is $657,000 over 10 years; that includes relocation and upkeep. It's unclear exactly how long it could take to raise those funds, but Jim Bresnahan, head of the task force working to save the bridge, said the township has plenty of time.

"Fortunately, it doesn't have to be a six-month effort," he said. "You don't want to make it a 10-year effort, but it can happen over a span of time."

The trustees agreed the township should make an effort to relocate the bridge, but can't be bound to a true commitment.

"I think we can do what the engineer wants and make it a best-efforts approach," board Chairman Curt Sybert said. "We'll see what we can do and put our best foot forward, but I can't tie the board's hands."

"We just don't know what could occur in three to five years that would not allow this project to go forward," he added.

Volunteers have been exploring ways to preserve the bridge after county officials ordered it renovated or scrapped in 2009.

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

Last year, officials said keeping the bridge in its original location is preferable to preserve its historical integrity.

But the option would leave the structure subject to strict, ongoing maintenance regulations as part of the state's Scenic Rivers Program, boosting maintenance costs.

Moving the bridge will introduce some additional costs, mostly to prepare a new site for the bridge. That includes the installation of abutments, or reinforced walls at either side of a waterway designed to support a bridge.

The exact location for the bridge over Wildcat Run is not determined, but officials said it likely would be visible from the parking lot near the playground in Liberty Township Park.

Eventually, a raised platform might be constructed near the bridge to accommodate educational programs.

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