Pedestrians traversing the Ohio to Erie Trail through Westerville soon will have safe passage over one of the city's busiest streets.

Pedestrians traversing the Ohio to Erie Trail through Westerville soon will have safe passage over one of the city's busiest streets.

Last week, contractors erected a pedestrian bridge over County Line Road, between North State Street and McCorkle Boulevard. County Line was closed Friday, Feb. 21, while the span was installed.

"It's really about improving safety for the users of the pathway system right there at County Line and where the Ohio to Erie Trail comes across," Westerville Parks and Recreation Director Randy Auler said. "It's an important connection within our community."

The 106-foot bridge carried a price tag just shy of $1.9 million, with $500,000 of that being paid for through a Clean Ohio Trail Fund grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The bridge is steel-trussed, with a wooden deck that's expected to last 40 years with no chemical treatments.

While the city has several tunnels along its pathway system to safely get pedestrians across busy roadways, this is Westerville's first pedestrian bridge over a roadway, Auler said.

The decision to construct a bridge at that location boiled down to increasing safety on a busy section of trail.

"Public safety is always priority one, and from an engineering and traffic standpoint, we knew there was an opportunity to cross pedestrians and cyclists over the roadway rather than through it," City Engineer Susan Banbury said.

Auler said the bridge long has been part of the city's capital-improvement funding plan, especially because residents have made it clear through public surveys that the pathways system is a priority amenity for the Department of Parks and Recreation.

"The No. 1 priority for citizens was to continue to maintain, develop and expand the pathway system in the community. It's an important amenity for all of the citizens that they can use at their own leisure and at their own pace," Auler said. "That is a highly rated area within our community."

Because the trail is part of a statewide system, it's especially important that it be up to date and well maintained, Auler said.

"It is a section of the Ohio to Erie Trail, so as that trail and pathway will go all the way from Lake Erie to the Ohio River ... besides improving safety for our local city, ... statewide there will be cyclists that take long rides and visit Westerville and Uptown as they traverse across the state," Auler said.

The contractor is scheduled to finish the bridge in May, and the city will open it shortly afterward to pedestrian traffic, Auler said.

Following the installation of the bridge, the pathway system will be further improved by a new signage system aimed at helping users better navigate the system.