Joe Paradise dug his hand into a large crack in the bridge that carries North Main Street over North Howard Street, sending crumbling concrete onto the dirt and grass below.

Later, as he continued to provide a tour underneath the aging span in northern Akron, he pointed upward. 

"You can see the sky up there," said Paradise, the deputy director of engineering services for the Summit County Engineer's Office.

Concrete is disintegrating and the steel beams are rusting. Summit County has installed plywood to catch falling pieces so they don't hit the vehicles below — a contraption that Paradise called a "bridge diaper."

The small bridge, estimated at about 45 feet long, was built in 1948 and sits just south of the High Level Bridge that separates Akron and Cuyahoga Falls. Many people who travel on North Main may not even realize the bridge is there.

The span has reached the end of its life, Paradise said.

Instead of replacing it, the county is removing the bridge as part of a $510,000 project that begins April 1. Kenmore Construction will tear out the portion of North Howard Street that travels below the bridge and circles around to connect to North Main and fill in the area with dirt, eliminating the need for a bridge. It's the same process that the Ohio Department of Transportation recently used to eliminate some bridges along Interstate 76-77 in Akron.

Summit County also has big plans for the nearby High Level Bridge. That truss bridge, also built in 1948, needs to be replaced, Paradise said.

It sits 212 feet above the Cuyahoga River.

The county has estimated that it will cost at least $38 million to build a new bridge and officials are hoping that state lawmakers approve an increase in the gas tax this year to help pay for the work. The engineering for the project is expected to begin later this year or next year.

"We don't have that kind of money," Paradise said about the overall cost. "We need rich friends to help."

He said the county will ask Cuyahoga Falls and Akron to pitch in.

The county plans to maintain traffic during the four-year project.

The bridge work isn't expected to begin until at least 2026. The county didn't want the project taking place at the same time that the Ohio Department of Transportation replaces the state Route 8 bridge that spans the Little Cuyahoga River Valley and links Akron with its northern suburbs.

Paradise said he expects more drivers to use the High Level Bridge while the Route 8 bridge is under construction. The Route 8 project, estimated at $125 million to $130 million, is expected to start in late 2020 and continue through 2024.

Meanwhile, Akron officials decided they didn't have the estimated $1 million needed to replace the deteriorating North Howard bridge, which the county has been maintaining, Paradise said.

That portion of North Howard will be permanently closed. The project means that the 1,400 motorists a day who use North Howard to connect with North Main will have to find an alternate route.

The construction also will affect motorists on the four-lane North Main. About 14,000 vehicles a day travel that stretch.

The road will be reduced to one lane in each direction during the work, which is expected to be completed by the end of July.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.