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Spanning time and a creek

Officials involved in the replacement of Bridge 25 had a ceremonial ribbon cutting on the new structure Wednesday. From left are Jim Reese, consulting engineer; Katlyn Schertalis, engineer of record forButler, Fairman and Seufert; Leota King and Gary Naylor of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners;Evan Solgere, project manager for Dave O’Mara Contractor; John Graham, superintendent for O’Mara; county surveyor Warren Sudhoff; Steve Eckstein, general concrete superintendent for O’Mara; and Michael Waldron ofButler, Fairman and Seufert civil engineers.

By BOB HANSEN - bhansen@newsexaminer.com

Long after the current generation is dead and gone, Bridge 25 should still be carrying traffic across Williams Creek.

That’s the verdict of Jim Reese, who joined officials involved in replacing the bridge at a ceremonial ribbon-cutting for it on Wednesday afternoon. Because of the form of its construction, the bridge “will last our lifetime, and our children’s lifetime, and their children and grandchildren,” Reese said.

The bridge is about 3 miles west of Harrisburg on County Road 300 N. Reese, a local engineer, worked as a consultant for the county, serving as liaison with the designers and contractors involved in construction.

It is an arch-style bridge, according to engineer Katlyn Schertalis, who designed it. Instead of having beams that carry a deck across the creek, this bridge has five culvert-like metal arches that let the stream flow underneath. Between and on top of the arches is fill material. A concrete roadway is laid right on top.

Footings go down about 16 feet into solid rock, said John Graham, the project superintendent for Dave O’Mara Contractors, which built the structure. The old bridge, constructed in 1938, didn’t have footings, he said. 

Bridge 25 is special, said Leota King, president of the county Board of Commissioners. Because the former bridge had been designated as historic, the county could not simply tear it out and replace it with a modern structure. The replacement had to be built to look like the old one. 

The old bridge was a five-span metal pipe arch. Engineers said it was in poor condition, so poor that the load-bearing weight was lowered to 10 tons, according to an evaluation by Butler, Fairman and Seufert, a civil engineering firm. 

Commissioner Gary Naylor noted that if the old bridge had been repaired perhaps 15 years ago, it might not have been necessary to replace it.

But, the 2015 engineers report said, “The substructure has advanced concrete deterioration.”

In fact, Reese told the commissioners on Wednesday morning that the original replacement plan had called for using concrete from the old bridge as fill. That material was in such bad shape that it couldn’t be used, he said, and instead had to be replaced with rip-rap.

In order to receive $1.4 million in federal highway funding for the project, the old bridge had to be replicated. It looks about the same but has improved and longer approaches on both sides, Warren Sudhoff, county surveyor, said. The county had to pay about $300,000 of the total cost.

Schertalis said the arch-style bridge was more common in the early part of the 20th century when labor costs were less. This is the second such bridge she has designed. At 28 feet, the new bridge’s roadway is about six feet wider than the old one.

Graham estimated that nearly 1,000 cubic yards of concrete went into the bridge, saying that constructing the walls was a challenge. The foot-wide solid concrete walls are about 3 feet tall with a rounded cap that extends about 2.5 inches over each side of the wall.

“We’ve not done that much detail before,” he said.

Even though the bridge has been open for about 10 days, the ribbon-cutting doesn’t quite mark the end of the project. Sudhoff came to the commissioners Wednesday to secure funding so that two tall sycamore trees that lean over the bridge can be cut down.