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Work on Woodland bridge under way

Not a moment too soon.

That’s the sentiment members of the Woodland Cemetery Board expressed about last week’s news that the state had awarded a bid to replace the cemetery bridge.

Ohio Department of Transportation officials announced last week that Armstrong Steel Erectors, Inc., of Newark will replace the aging span, at a cost of $1,186,710.40.

Crews began site preparation Tuesday. The project should be completed by November.

&uot;That’s what’s holding it up,&uot; cemetery superintendent Bill Klaiber said as he punched his fingers through the rusting steel I-beams underneath the asphalt deck of the old bridge. &uot;If you can stick your fingers through it, that’s bad.&uot;

In one place, an I-beam is rusted almost clear through. There are several places where daylight shines through holes in what used to be steel.

&uot;It was a tough decision when we closed the bridge,&uot; cemetery board member Jerry Rowe said. &uot;But we had to do it.&uot;

The bridge was closed four years ago after an inspection revealed it was in too bad a condition to handle the volume of traffic that used it on a regular basis.

It was built in 1908 and was designed to last 60 years.

It was rehabilitated in 1978. But the cemetery handles 300 funerals a year, Monday through Saturday. That’s an average of one funeral per day every day so the antiquated bridge was feeling its age.

&uot;They didn’t plan on it carrying as much traffic as it carried,&uot; board member Jesse Roberts said.

With the old bridge in unusable condition, local entities began searching for funding to pay for a new one.

The cemetery did not have money to pay for a new bridge, and the board is limited by state law in how it could generate funds for such projects.

Local entities applied for grants through the Appalachian Regional Commission and other state and national agencies.

State funding through ODOT became available earlier this year.

The new bridge will have concrete piers and span– an improvement over the steel and asphalt design of the current structure.

It will also be longer, wider and higher that than current one.

It will be wide enough for two cars to pass each other and will have a pedestrian walkway.

The new bridge will be approximately 10 to 12 feet higher than the old one. The additional height will raise it above flood stage.

&uot;There should be no reason for the road to be impassable because of high water,&uot; Roberts said.

Since the bridge is being paid for with state funding, all of the improvements will meet ODOT specifications.

The road leading to it will be paved as well.

It will also be made to look old, so it blends in with the wrought iron gates and established surroundings.

&uot;Parts of the new bridge will look like stone,&uot; Roberts said. &uot;The concrete will have ornate railing to match the gates. There will be a place for flags and adornments. It will sure make a lot of difference in our cemetery&uot;

Roberts said the new bridge has been a team effort between different local and state agencies, with a lot of people working to make the new structure a reality.

&uot;We worked as hard as we could, and many times people could not see that. I hope now they will realize how hard we did work,&uot; Roberts said. &uot;This is their tax dollars at work.&uot;

&uot;Some people have complained,&uot; Rowe agreed. &uot;But most people have been patient and knew we were trying.&uot; Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune