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Report: Most of Franklin County’s bridges are structurally sound

Souder Avenue bridge in Columbus, Ohio.
Nathan Holth
Souder Avenue bridge in Columbus, Ohio.

Franklin County commissioners on Tuesday are expected to approve the annual bridge inspection report filed by the engineer’s office.

The report determines there are no bridges in the county that pose a threat to life or property. Of the 365 structures inspected by the county, 97% were rated as “fair” or better. “Fair” is number five on a scale spanning numeral rankings between zero and nine.

"The bridges in Franklin County are in great shape. As the report stated, 97% of the bridges in Franklin County that we own were rated at fair or better condition. And 71% are in good or better condition. Those are some high percentages for our bridge inventory, as compared to some other counties out there,” said David Dibling, assistant bridge engineer for the county.

But about 3%, or 11, of the county’s bridges were observed to be in “poor” condition, or a four on the scale. That’s three more than in 2020, and the highest number listed in “poor” condition since 13 bridges were reported in that condition in 2018. Before 2018, the county hasn’t reported more than nine bridges in “poor” condition since 1994.

But, perhaps, because the engineer’s office starts planning rehab or replacement for bridges once they come in at lower point on the scale, a bridge in the county hasn’t been listed at a ranking of three --- for “serious condition” --- or less, since 1998.

“All of the bridges that do not fall into the 97 percent, all of them, are currently in some sort of phase plan development with consultants for either replacement or rehabilitation,” Dibling said.

The bridges listed in “poor” condition in 2021 are found in Blendon, Clinton, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison. The bridges in Plain, Pleasant, Sharon and Washington townships ranked higher on the scale.

The rank with the most classifications was the “very good” category, number eight on the scale, with 161 bridges listed in that condition. Just three bridges, found in Jackson and Madison townships, were listed as a nine, at the top of the scale.

The bridges owned by the county are inspected annually, primarily by county employees, but in certain conditions, consultants are used, like for underwater and high-rise inspections, Dibling said. While the county lists 374 structures, nine of them are owned by railroad companies and so only cursory, not full inspections, are conducted over the roadways. The companies have regulations and inspection standards of their own to follow, Dibling said.

Dibling said any federal infrastructure dollars that make their way to the county for bridge repair and replacement will be well received and put to use.

“The list that we have of bridges that we would like to do things to, and that we have the money to do things to, are not always in align. So any additional funding we can get from anywhere is greatly appreciated. So hopefully, we get to see some of the infrastructure dollars that they’re talking about,” he said.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.