Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Oct. 16 newspaper on Page A7.
JACKSON — A Jackson County bridge will soon be replaced, and other bridges in the county may also be addressed.
Jackson County Engineer Melissa Miller told The Courier that the Jackson County Engineer’s Office had been operating on a budget that had not increased since 2005.
Earlier this year, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a two-year state transportation budget along with an accompanying “gas tax” increase. House Bill 62 increases the gas tax by 10.5 cents per gallon, to 38.5 cents, which went into effect July 1.
The money is earmarked to be used to fund state and local highway and street improvements. Miller reported that her office wasn’t supposed to see money from the gas tax until October, but she received their first payment last month in September.
Miller stated she received $125,000; the gas tax increase should generate at least an additional $1.3 million per year for her budget.
The first bridge to be replaced using funds from the gas tax will be the bridge on CH&D Road (County Road 2) in Madison Township just north of Pyro Road (County Road 47). The failing bridge was closed in August. Miller told The Courier that she designed the CH&D Road bridge “in-house” in order to save the county money.
“We started working on the bridge on Oct. 7, but are now waiting on the concrete deck to come in,” stated Miller. “I am hopeful that I can get the bridge replaced before winter sets in.”
Miller said the CH&D Road bridge was the eighth bridge to fail in 20 months.
“We also have another bridge on Antioch Road that is closed,” she said. “It has a much lower traffic volume and a much smaller detour length than the CH&D Road bridge.”
She explained that she has applied for an Ohio Public Works Grant to replace the Antioch Road (County Road 12) bridge in Jefferson Township, which closed in May because it was also failing. Miller reported that she has had success in the past in getting this grant, but wouldn’t know if she’s getting it until January or February 2020.
Then the money would not be available until July 1, 2020.
Miller is very concerned about the public’s well-being and about the response time of law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS being impacted because of bridges being closed.
“That’s why I have diligently been trying to raise awareness, along with other county engineers, for years and years now,” stated Miller.
Miller said, “By law, I have to do an engineer’s estimate to prove the cost of a bridge replacement before I can proceed with the replacement with my employees. The law only allows me to replace a bridge if the total of the labor, the equipment, and materials all cost less than $100,000.”
If the estimate is more than $100,000, the project must be bid out to a contractor.
About 16 percent of Jackson County’s 264 bridges, according to Miller, have weight restrictions applied to them, and as far as she’s concerned, they all need to be replaced.
“As you can now imagine, the cost to replace all of the county’s failing bridges is astronomical,” stated Miller. “I apply for all available grant funding and often have multiple grants per project but I am still unable to keep up.”