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Culvert replaces turnpike bridge

MetroParks collaborates on $6.3M project

Structural work to the south-facing facade of a culvert for the bike trail on Kirk Road in Austintown is complete. The $6.3 million project makes way for an established section of the Mill Creek MetroParks bike trail, which is part of the larger Lake to River Western Reserve Greenway Bike Trail that runs from the Ohio River in East Liverpool to Lake Erie in Ashtabula.

AUSTINTOWN — Work on the eastbound lane of the turnpike near Kirk Road finished last week, and along with it, the structural work to the south-facing facade of a culvert for the Mill Creek MetroParks bike trail also was finished.

The $6.3 million project is funded through the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, which gets its income from tolls paid to use the 241-mile road, said turnpike spokesperson Brian Newbacher. The culvert replaces the turnpike bridge near Kirk Road, and makes way for an established section of the Mill Creek MetroParks bike trail, which is part of the larger Lake to River Western Reserve Greenway Bike Trail that runs from the Ohio River in East Liverpool to Lake Erie in Ashtabula.

“The turnpike contacted the MetroParks about the removal of the bridge,” said Mill Creek MetroParks Planning and Operations Director Stephen Avery. “They involved us from the beginning.”

He said the MetroParks and turnpike collaborated on the design and detail of the tunnel’s two identical concrete facades that when completed will resemble real rock like the kind used in structures at the Kirk Road trailhead.

Standing in front of the structurally complete facade under the eastbound turnpike traffic, Avery explained four colors of stain will give the concrete surface a natural rock look. He said a black keystone will be inlaid above the center of the tunnel, and in-set words reading “MetroParks Bikeway,” also will be inlaid with black to make them stand out.

Newbacher said although turnpike workers maintain all turnpike bridges, it was important to include the MetroParks in the design.

“We wanted to be a good neighbor and involve them in the project,” Newbacher said.

The turnpike commission also provided a paved, just more than a quarter-mile detour for MetroParks trail users. Avery said he believes part of the detour will remain in place when construction on the culvert is finished, mainly for turnpike maintenance. The part of the detour that connects to the bike trail will be torn up, he said.

A MetroParks counting device located several miles south of Kirk Road tallied about 83,000 trail users over the course of a year — averaging to about 227 per day. Avery said he believes the daily use of the Kirk Road trailhead is much higher than that number, as it is a popular place for cyclists and walkers to begin.

Newbacher said the culvert project has been part of the turnpike’s capital improvement project for the past two seasons.

“We looked at different options with that location because the bridge itself was becoming a problem for our maintenance crews, and this became the best option,” Newbacher said.

The move from bridge to culvert will mean less future maintenance on the structure and a long-term cost savings.

The project, which began in spring of last year, is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com