CINCINNATI -- Residents and commuters who frequent the Marburg Avenue Bridge might be inconvenienced next year as the city works to replace the aging structure. But officials are committed to limiting hassles, and they’re confident the long-term payoff will be worth it.
Marburg Bridge, which is owned by Hamilton County and maintained by the city of Cincinnati, crosses over the Norfolk Southern Railway just south of the intersection with Wasson Road in Hyde Park. It was widened in the early 1960s to accommodate increasing traffic and now carries approximately 14,000 vehicles per day.
At Oakley and Hyde Park community council meetings over the past year, residents expressed concerns that the bridge closure and subsequent detours will divert heavy traffic to normally quiet, residential streets.
City Manager Harry Black said officials are considering several measures to help mitigate those effects, including strategically placed signage, temporary traffic signal adjustments, pavement striping and closure of Victoria and Portsmouth avenues to preempt cut-through traffic.
“Every effort will be made... to minimize the inconvenience to the traveling public and to reduce the closure time where possible,” Black said in a November message to the mayor and members of city council.
A planned detour would route travelers via Wasson Road and Erie Avenue. Full project overview and detour maps are available here.
Designs have been approved, the construction bidding process is now open and utility relocation and right-of-way acquisition will be completed by mid-January. Work is slated to begin on the bridge in March 2017.
Department of Transportation and Engineering spokesperson Bill Shefcik said there is currently no official timeline, but the project is expected to take at least six months.
Communication with the city has been productive, according to Hyde Park Neighborhood Council President Andy Scarpitti.
“What we’ve done is provide a physical meeting place and allowed residents to voice their concerns,” Scarpitti said. “For example, we had a meeting where reps answered questions about diverting traffic and eliminating parking spaces.
"They weren’t just saying, ‘Here’s our plan. Deal with it.’ It was more like, ‘Here are our ideas. What are your thoughts,' which I think made for a fairly productive exchange among the city, residents and the neighborhood councils.”
The Department of Transportation and Engineering worked closely with Norfolk Southern Railroad to develop the design, which features an 18-foot vertical clearance (lowered from 21 feet) between the top of the freight railroad track and the bottom of the new bridge.
Rocky Merz, director of communication for the city of Cincinnati, said the new bridge will be more appealing to the eye, but there's a bigger reason for the project.
“This project will not only improve traffic for motorized vehicles but will also improve the experience for pedestrians and bicyclists,” Merz said.
He also stated that all businesses within the community will be accessible and open for the duration of the project.
Feasibility studies confirmed that the bridge is currently safe for all legal vehicles.
The city’s recent purchase of the railroad corridor for Wasson Way allowed organizers to lower the vertical clearance, making way for a proposed connection to Wasson Way Bike Trail and a potential future transit corridor.
Wasson Way board president Susan Shafer said access points are planned at the trail across from Hyde Park Plaza and at Erie Avenue, with exact locations to be determined. Both proposed access points are less than a half-mile from Marburg Bridge.
“That concept is extremely appealing,” Scarpitti said of the proposed tie-in. “It seems like more of a reality than ever, so I think people are anticipating that as an added benefit to the community.”
After the most recent annual inspection, the bridge received a structurally deficient condition rating of 4, on a scale of 0 to 9, with zero indicating failure and 9 indicating excellence. Inspectors identified widespread concrete deterioration on the bridge, which was originally constructed in 1931 by the Norfolk & Western Railway.
The project is being funded by a combination of Hamilton County Municipal Road Funds and federal grant monies.