Two years ago, historic preservation issues delayed the bridge project. Now, there is another problem.
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The quest to replace the closed-for-now Marshall Street bridge has outlasted three public works directors since 1984.
Carmen Conglose Jr. expects to be around at least several more years before retiring. But he, too, now is wondering if the decrepit bridge will get replaced before he goes.
"I've had it up to here with Marshall Street," said Conglose, the city's deputy director of public works, his left arm raised over his head.
Replacing the 70-year-old rusting and failing green truss bridge has been an issue for nearly 20 years. The bridge connects Oak Hill Avenue to Front Street and downtown.
Likelihood of repair
Yet, the span may be repaired before it's replaced.
The city closed the bridge last month because of unusual vibrations at its west end. Concrete barriers went up to assure no vehicular traffic used the crossing; temporary barriers had been moved.
Inspectors finished a detailed inspection and analysis last week to decide if the bridge can be repaired or if it must close permanently.
Part of the bridge already is closed for good. An annual inspection in fall 1998 showed supports under the 326-foot span are rusted and losing strength. Patching the bridge would have cost $50,000. Instead, the city closed one lane so the crossing could stay open. The sidewalks have also been closed.
The city likely will make repairs and get the whole bridge back open if the costs are a few thousand dollars.
A repair bill running tens of thousands of dollars, however, could leave the span closed until it's replaced. The city will have to balance repair costs with the bridge's importance to drivers and nearby businesses, Conglose said.
The most optimistic projection for a replaced bridge is a year from now.
Unlike many government projects, however, money isn't the issue. The federal government will pay 90 percent of the estimated $3 million replacement; the state will pay the rest.
It's the red tape that's causing the delay. For that, thank state government mostly.
The state approved replacing the bridge in 1997. Two years ago, however, historic preservation issues delayed the project. The crossing is among a couple of others of its type left in the state. The historic issues finally have been resolved except for the state's final signature.
But now there is another problem. Engineering standards changed in the interim. Plans need to be redrawn because they will be rejected if they're not updated, Conglose said.
The city expects to change the plans and file the new ones in about six months. Construction will take an additional six months or so.
That time line depends upon immediate state approval of the plans. Conglose won't even hazard a guess on how long state approval will take.