Construction is under way to restore the bridge to its 1943 appearance.
By MONICA BOND
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NEWTON FALLS -- Men working on the historic covered bridge here were grateful for the lower temperatures late last week.
"The last two days were brutal out here. This is a relief," said Dave Beda, a carpenter with BECDIR Construction Co. of Youngstown, as he pulled nails out of boards taken from the bridge roof.
Beda said working on the roof was especially tough because the sun reflects off the aluminum; he was working on the bridge's main level.
"Down here we get some shade and a bit of a breeze," he said.
Trumbull County Engineer John D. Latell Sr. said the weather hasn't thrown the $1.06 million project off track; work should be completed next spring. The County Engineers Association of Ohio provided the $1.06 million grant, of which $827,506 is for construction.
"As it gets humid, they might go slower but it hasn't delayed the project," he said.
Layered with wood
The original bridge was built around 1831 with three types of wood, and the new parts will follow that pattern, said John Picuri, the county's bridge engineer. The main members are of Douglas fir, the siding is poplar and the flooring is oak, Picuri explained. The original bridge builders used wooden pegs to hold it together.
"It's a pretty amazing project; I'll probably never work on one of these again," he said.
The new flooring will have three layers on top of the beams to add strength and lessen traffic noise. Picuri explained the original floor planks ran across the width of the bridge. The first and third layers of the new floor will run the length of the bridge; the second layer will go across its width.
"We have all these steel and concrete bridges that last only 100 years," he said. "This one will last another hundred years once we've done this."
Newton Falls Covered Bridge on Arlington Street over the east branch of the Mahoning River was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It is the second-oldest covered bridge in Ohio, the oldest covered bridge still in use in its original location, and the county's only covered bridge.
The bridge is 123 feet long and 24 feet wide. It has a span of 1011/2 feet and a 16-foot wide roadway.
The historic look
Last week, the southern slope of the roof was pulled off, some of the flooring was pulled up, exposing supporting structures, and the sidewalk was under construction.
Latell said the goal is to restore the bridge to its 1943 look and the city is 100 percent behind the project.
The bridge siding, roof, deck planking, floor beams, sidewalk members and 18 of the 78 truss diagonals, or timbers on the sides of the bridge, will be replaced.
Picuri said the Ohio Historic Preservation Office asked that they leave the new wood and the old wood different, so people can distinguish between them.
"They will all be painted with a clear varnish that's fire retardant," he said.
The county plans to add lighting on the roadway and walkway and cameras for the safety of the bridge and the people who use it.
"We haven't had much vandalism except people writing on the sidewalk," Picuri said.
Nevertheless, the cameras will tie into a system already in place with Newton Falls Police. Picuri hopes the cameras will help police detect smoke, vandalism, and damage caused by vehicles. He said car traffic on the bridge was about 2,000 vehicles a day.
"Every now and then we have an oversized truck come through and do damage," he said.
Picuri said the project's hardest part is keeping the bridge structurally sound while they are working on it, especially when they remove the steel piers under the bridge and replace them with two concrete piers that will look like stone.
Randy Boye, superintendent for BECDIR, said they will have to build temporary dams and pump out the area around the piers when they build the new ones.
"We'll only do one pier at a time," he said.
Picuri explained that logs get caught on the southern side of the piers, acting like a dam. The new cement piers will be pointed to deflect debris. He said they also plan to replace the concrete under the bridge with stones saved from around Trumbull County.
Smolen Engineering of Jefferson assists the county engineer's office with project administration and daily inspection activities.
Nicholas W. Wayman, an inspector with Smolen, said he expects it will take the five-person crew three months of work, 40 hours a week, or 5,000 to 6,000 hours, to finish the project. Because of the downtime involved in waiting for lumber to arrive and for the roads to be paved, the project will not be finished until spring 2006.
Wayman added that Newton Falls citizen George Quiggle had shown him a scale model he had built of the bridge; it took 367 hours to make.
"Everything's the same, I couldn't believe it," he said.
Quiggle said he's been building scale models of covered bridges since he retired from Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital in 1978.
"I've built 30 to 40 different covered bridges from across the country," he said.
Newton Falls' historic bridge is featured on the county's 2005-06 highway map distributed by the county engineer's office.