Erie County officials obtained a federal grant to bridge a major funding gap so they can improve a 126-year-old structure over Pipe Creek.
The County Engineers Association of Ohio, which receives federal funding, recently provided about $1.37 million so local officials can upgrade a bridge on Columbus Avenue just south of West Perkins Avenue, near Firelands Electric.
By the numbers
• $1.7 million: Total cost to replace Columbus Avenue bridge over Pipe Creek, just south of West Perkins Avenue.
• $1.37 million: Federal grant money Erie County engineer’s office obtained to fix bridge.
• $330,000: Approximate local funding needed to pay off project in full.
• 126: Age of bridge.
All told, the replacement project will cost about $1.7 million, making it one of the most expensive bridge projects Erie County officials have ever tackled.
Local officials must still find about $330,000 for their share of the project.
They’ll have plenty of time to save pennies — the project won’t start for about seven years. From 2013 to 2019, budget projections show the county engineer’s office stashing away some money each year until 2020 — when construction tentatively starts — to fully pay off construction without incurring any debt.
“We could use that $1.3 million for other bridges or to resurface or seal roads,” Erie County project engineer Matt Rogers said. “It frees up money we can spend on projects we hadn’t planned on”
The area near the Columbus Avenue bridge over Pipe Creek is prone to flooding. When the creek overflows, it spills into nearby streets and properties, including Bell Avenue, Lakeland Drive and the Terrace Court Properties.
“We’ve got a big problem here,” area resident Beverly Goshe previously told the Register during one bout of flooding. “It makes me very upset. I could slip and fall and have a serious accident”
Some measures, including the creation of a water-detention facility at Strickfaden Park, were intended to address these flooding issues, but it’ll take an entirely new bridge to help keep the water in its proper channel.
“As far as we can tell, the bridge is undersized and its capacity is poor,” Rogers said. When the bridge is completed, “it will have a greater capacity to let the water go through from Pipe Creek”
Local engineering officials budget about $600,000 a year for bridge replacements or repairs, which are funded mostly by motorvehicle gas taxes.
Erie County engineer Jack Farschman receives about $4 million a year from this revenue stream, which is fed by vehicle registrations and gas taxes. It’s the largest funding source for Farschman’s department, and his bridge projects are typically funded solely by this money.
State or federal agencies, meanwhile, typically provide money to county bridge projects only when a structure is in poor condition, at best. Given that more than 100 bridges maintained by Erie County engineers are in pretty good shape — the worst ranking is a “5,” or “fair” — the county rarely sees grant money for such projects.
Under a new policy, however, each county can receive partial funding for a bridge project once every four years, regardless of a bridge’s condition or size.
Erie County clearly stands to benefit from this new approach. Local engineers applied for the most funding possible for the Columbus Avenue bridge above Pipe Creek, and their efforts paid off.
“This worked out,” Rogers said. “We were planning on saving the entire amount over the next six or seven years. Suddenly, we don’t have to save this money, and we can use it to help preserve other infrastructure”