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ODOT to cover bridge project funds

WOODSFIELD — The Ohio Department of Transportation reconsidered its decision to deny Monroe County’s timber contribution as a part of its match for the reconstruction of the Knowlton Covered Bridge project and will now cover 100 percent of the funding.

Originally, the county was required to contribute a 5 percent match, or $45,000, toward the nearly $1 million ODOT grant. The county was hoping to use a timber donation to fund its portion of the match.

It plans to provide the majority of timber needed to rebuild the collapsed bridge’s trusses and was hoping the contribution would suffice as the county’s match.

Earlier this week during the commissioners’ meeting, ODOT officials said it could not accept the timber as its match, that the match must come in monetary form. However, now officials said they have reevaluated their decision and will cover 100 percent of the funding.

Ashley Rittenhouse, public information officer for ODOT District 10, said the county will not be required to contribute any monetary funding.

“The rebuilding of the historic Knowlton Covered Bridge will move forward with a commitment from ODOT to provide 100 percent of the funding for the project,” she said.

The project is being funded primarily through ODOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program, Rittenhouse said. Additionally, ODOT has identified other funding opportunities that can be used toward the project, she said.

Rittenhouse said the timber will still be used toward the project. The county has identified around 115 white oak trees at the county-owned Industrial Park property that can be used for the bridge’s rehabilitation project.

County Commissioner Mick Schumacher said officials are planning to begin harvesting the timber soon, now that ODOT has given them the go-ahead.

County officials and local residents are pleased with ODOT’s decision that will allow officials to move forward with the restoration project, Schumacher said.

“We are all very pleased. We are looking forward to restoring the bridge and hoping that it can be open to local traffic,” he added.

Schumacher said prior to the bridge’s collapse, it was closed due to unsafe conditions. He said he is hoping that the bridge will once again allow traffic to cross through once it is restored.

Schumacher said the design work is nearly complete. The next step is to put the project out for bid, he said.

The Knowlton Covered Bridge was built in 1887. It was 195 feet in length and the second longest covered bridge in Ohio. Located just off Ohio 26, it is north of Rinard Mills on Monroe County Road 387A. It was rehabilitated in 1995 but no motor vehicles were allowed on the bridge; for a time, pedestrians could still walk the three-spans of the covered bridge over Little Muskingum River.

It is owned by the county and located in Covered Bridge Park along with a picnic area where visitors could sit and admire the beauty of the architecture. The Knowlton is a covered multiple kingpost through Burr arch truss bridge and was posted to the National Register of Historic Places on March 11, 1980.

Officials are hoping to begin its reconstruction later this year or in early 2022.

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