Washington Street Bridge: Old design, still useful

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Commercial traffic, individual vehicles and school buses pass over the Washington Street Bridge in Marietta Tuesday.

Though the Federal Highway Administration classifies the Washington Street Bridge in Marietta as functionally obsolete, that categorization is not linked to current concrete crumbling along the abutment on the west side of the bridge.

“The abutment definitely needs attention, especially since that bridge was just redone in 2009,” noted City Engineer Joe Tucker. “It’s certainly a concern but do I think the bridge is going to fall down? No. Borings are probably needed, there could be some deterioration within the concrete or corrosion within the rebar. Prior to being city engineer I’ve done several investigations… I think we need to take a close look at it this spring to try and determine the problem and hopefully repair it this summer depending on the magnitude and available funding.”

In terms of the federal classification though, the Ohio Department of Transportation quickly pointed out Tuesday that the bridge is still safe for both residential and commercial traffic.

“Functionally obsolete means if a brand new bridge were to be constructed today, we have come up with newer and better ways of doing things,” said Ashley Rittenhouse, public information officer for ODOT District 10, which oversaw the $7 million major repair of the bridge between April 2009 and the end of May 2010. “That was a major job in 2009, that’s why ODOT oversaw it. It is a city bridge though, meaning routine maintenance is their responsibility.”

Washington County Engineer Roger Wright further explained the difference in the two federal designations for bridges that can raise some eyebrows.

“I got a few questions about what they mean,” he said, noting the Times article on infrastructure Feb. 1 which highlighted a federal push for investment in aged bridges and roads and first reported the bridge as functionally obsolete.

Functionally obsolete is based on ratings noting deck geometry, under clearance, approach roadway alignment, structural condition or waterway adequacy, meaning how often the bridge is underwater and impassable.

Structurally deficient looks for lower ratings on the deck, beams, piers, abutments, culverts, retaining walls, deteriorating structure and waterway adequacy.

“It’s about how a bridge is coded during inspection,” he explained. “We’re required by law to look at every bridge in our inventory every year and provide an appraisal. Though Washington Street Bridge isn’t part of my inventory, looking at it I don’t think it’s deficient. As an engineer that bridge is in really good shape. What’s probably causing the rating of functionally obsolete is the approach on the west side that comes in on a curve and down a hill.”

A curved alignment can impede line of sight visibility, he said. Tucker also noted the presence of the railroad crossing at the end of the bridge.

“Ideally you would want the CSX line to run below or above a road rather than at the end of a bridge,” said Tucker.

Though no traffic studies of how many vehicles pass on or below the bridge were immediately available Tuesday, the bridge, as part of Ohio 7 is considered by the Federal Highway Administration and ODOT to be a principal arterial route. It connects not only other state routes but the western side of the Muskingum River to major emergency medical care.

About the bridge:

¯ Built: 1953.

¯ Major repair: April 2009- May 2010, cost: $7,084,050.09.

¯ Length: 1,035 feet.

¯ Deck Width: 38.1 feet.

¯ Roads that pass beneath: Front Street and Gilman Avenue.

¯ Considered a principal arterial route as Ohio 7 and a major connector to state routes 676, 339 and 26.

¯ Deemed functionally obsolete in 2016 by the Federal Highway Administration, but not a safety hazard.

¯ Possible repairs to the west concrete abutment are needed this summer.

Sources: Ohio Department of Transportation, U.S. Federal Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Washington County Engineer, Marietta City Engineer.