Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cincinnati bridge conditions decline slightly, but still sound

The condition of City and county bridges maintained and/or inspected by Cincinnati's Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) has declined slightly since 2008, but the vast majority have no structural deficiencies.

Those were the findings of the 2009 Annual Bridge Condition Report, a document required by the Ohio Revised Code that examined the integrity of 226 bridges throughout the City of Cincinnati.

Of those 226 bridges, 62 are City-owned and maintained vehicular and pedestrian spans. An additional 26 bridges are inspected and maintained by DOTE under a contractual funding agreement with the Hamilton County Engineer's Office.

The remaining bridges are either part of the federal Interstate system, the state highway network, or privately-owned railroads and are inspected for safety only.

Ninety-five percent 'fair' or better

The weighted averages are 7.11 for City bridges and 6.19 for county bridges, down from 7.21 and 6.29, respectively, in 2008.

Bridges are rated on a scale from 0 ("failed") to 9 ("excellent"). Results are weighted based on the size of the bridge, with longer spans given up to five times the importance of shorter crossings.

Recent numbers indicate a substantial improvement since the adoption of the Smale Commission Report on City infrastructure in 1988, which showed a 5.61 rating for City bridges and a 5.46 rating for county bridges.

DOTE's goal is a rating of 6, which qualifies as "satisfactory". Eighty-four bridges rated at 5 or more, indicating "fair" condition.

Waldvogel rates 'poor'

One City bridge, the Waldvogel Viaduct, is rated as "poor" and is the only City bridge that is currently load restricted.

Plans are in place to begin a $68 million reconstruction of the viaduct next year, which will replace the elevated span with an at-grade roadway and five smaller ramp bridges.

So far, $59.7 million has been secured through discretionary American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Local Major Bridge and safety program funds, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments Surface Transportation Program funds, Ohio Public Works Commission funds, Hamilton County municipal road funds.

The project is expected to take two years to complete.

Three county bridges also 'poor'

Three county bridges also rated as poor: the Kennedy Avenue Bridge over the Conrail tracks in Kennedy Heights, the Marburg Avenue Bridge over the Norfolk Southern tracks in Oakley, and the Western Hills Viaduct.

Preliminary engineering is underway for the viaduct, a project that could cost more than $100 million.

DOTE is petitioning the ODOT to have the reconstruction added to the Brent Spence Bridge replacement project, scheduled to begin in 2015. Inclusion in the project could make state and federal funding more readily available.

Replacement of both the Kennedy Avenue and the Marburg Avenue bridges is currently under development.

Funding insufficient

The Smale Commission Report recommended an annual City investment, in 1988 dollars, of $1 million in operating funds and $2.8 million in capital funds to maintain a deck area of approximately 1 million square feet.

Current operating levels are only $178,000 in operating funds and $1.1 million in capital funds. This funding is used to maintain 1.325 million square feet in deck area, which will only increase with the completion of Freedom Way at The Banks and two new bridges to be built as part of the Kennedy Connector project in Oakley.

DOTE also receives $1 million annually from the county to inspect, maintain, repair and replace its bridges, a figure the report calls insufficient.

"At this current funding level, a general decline in the condition of City (DOTE) bridges is expected unless those funds can be significantly leveraged with money from other outside sources," the report said.

The complete 2009 Annual Bridge Condition Report, which includes six-year plans for both City and county bridges and inspection reports for all 226 inspected bridges, is available in the Clerk of Council's office.

Previous reading on BC:
2008 Cincinnati bridge condition report released (4/29/09)
Cincinnati releases 2007 bridge report (4/8/08)