The proposed work is not the first major renovation for the 172-year-old structure.
By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NEWTON FALLS -- The old girl is ready for a face-lift.
The Newton Falls Covered Bridge will get some major renovations as early as next summer courtesy of funding from the federal government.
"We're going to rehabilitate the covered bridge," said Joe Kovach, a project manager with the Trumbull County Engineer's office. "The goal is to save the historic value of the structure."
The bridge, the only one of its kind remaining in Trumbull County, is considered the second-oldest covered bridge in the state, and the oldest on its original foundation, Kovach said.
The bridge on Arlington Street off state Route 534 crosses the east branch of the Mahoning River. It was constructed in 1831 and a covered sidewalk was added in 1921 for children who crossed the structure to attend school on Center Street.
Open to traffic
Despite the age, the bridge is still open to traffic, though only cars and light trucks are allowed to cross.
"It's a neat little bridge, and a big part of that city," Kovach said. "It carries 1,500 to 2,000 each day."
Kovach said officials originally applied for funds from the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program, but were not approved after funding was reduced after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Much of the program's money was diverted to other federal programs, Kovach said.
Instead, more than $1.06 million in federal money was granted to the project by the County Engineers Association of Ohio. Kovach said the Ohio Department of Transportation will assist with administering the money and oversee environmental documentation.
The money will be awarded for fiscal year 2005, he said, which means construction could start by July 1, 2004.
Officials from the engineer's office are finalizing plans for DLZ Corp. of Columbus to do technical engineering on the project.
"We're pretty much going to take it apart, and then refurbish it," Kovach said.
Earlier work done
The proposed work is not the first renovation for the bridge, though. In 1955, the Trumbull County Highway Department closed the structure because of unsafe conditions. It was later reopened after extensive work. In 1962, new oak flooring was added and two stone piers beneath the bridge were replaced by steel pile piers. Other repairs have been made over the years, including the installation of a metal roof after the tornados of 1985.
Listed in 1974 on the National Register of Historic Places, the Newton Falls Covered Bridge is one of more than 120 such bridges in Ohio. ODOT lists 16 in Ashtabula County, five in Columbiana County and none in Mahoning County.