Following a groundbreaking on Friday, the Ridge Avenue Bridge over the Stillwater River in Dayton is set to close Tuesday, February 18, 2014 until September, 2015 for a complete rebuilding.
The current bridge, which connects Riverside Drive on the west side to Triangle and Deweese Parks on the east, was built in 1927 and still carries nearly 5,000 vehicles a day to and from residential neighborhoods and the nearby Boonshoft Museum. A contract was granted to Brumbaugh Construction of Arcanum on February 11.
The total project cost is around $5.3 million, around $4.9 million of which is federally funded. The rest comes from the county, and Montgomery County Engineer Paul Gruner says the project has been a constructive collaboration between the city of Dayton, Montgomery County, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the federal government.
But funding is an issue: the county’s $16 million budget has increased just 3 percent in real dollars since 1993, while Gruner says building costs have gone up 80 percent. “We’re cutting our asphalt resurfacing program in half. We just have to keep cutting and conserving as much as we can.”
“Materials and asphalt and steel beams have all skyrocketed the last six to eight years,” says Frederick Pausch, executive director of the County Engineers Association. He says many Ohio counties are in an infrastructure squeeze.
The two main funding sources for Ohio counties are license plate registration fees and the state fuel tax. License plate fees can yield higher incomes particularly for urban areas, because the distribution of the funds is based on population. The last license plate fee increase in Ohio was in 2009. The Ohio gas tax of 28 cents per gallon hasn’t changed since 2005.
Federal funds are often tapped, particularly for major infrastructure projects like bridges, but the federal gas tax, which goes into the Highway Trust Fund, hasn’t increased since 1993. In recent years the amount of money on hand in the trust fund has declined sharply. Since 2008, Congress has acted to keep the trust fund from running out of money by transferring $41 billion from the general fund through a series of individual bills, and still the Congressional Budget Office predicts the fund will run out of money by 2015.
Montgomery County has five major bridge projects planned through 2017: Heathcliffe Rd. north of town, the Harshman Rd. bridge over the Mad River, and the Keowee and Third St. bridges over the Great Miami River.
Rumor has it the Ridge Avenue bridge is haunted by the ghost of Bessie Little, who was murdered there in the 1890s. Maybe Bessie Little can work a little funding magic, but county workers claim they haven’t seen any signs of that.