By CARL E. FEATHER
The first load of prefabricated wooden members that will become the longest covered bridge in the United States should arrive in Ashtabula County early next month.
Ashtabula County Engineer Tim Martin says the members will be shipped from a treatment plant in Minneapolis, the last step in processing the wood that will go into the $7.7-million bridge.
"We could see bridge construction there in the next couple of weeks," he says.
Maurice Rhude, owner of Sentinel Structures in Peshtigo, Wisc., was in Ashtabula County last week to survey the progress and meet with Martin. Rhude confirms that the first loads of members will soon be on their way, with many more to follow. He estimates that 40 semi-tractor loads of timber will roll on to the project site during the next several months.
"It's a big job," he says.
Sentinel specializes in structural glue-laminated timber members for bridges, gymnasiums, sound barriers and other uses. While the Ashtabula Township bridge is a large job, it can't top the U.S. Census Building project Sentinel recently completed. Rhude said it had 16,000 white oak members.
The Ashtabula Bridge will have a small amount of white oak in it, but Rhude says the primary timber will be southern yellow pine from Arkansas and Alabama. "It's the supreme structural wood of the world," he says.
Regardless of it's supremacy, these trees don't come in the widths, lengths and strengths required by this project. The modified Pratt-design trusses will be 3 feet thick and comprised of individual, glue-laminated members measuring 163%25u20444-by-8-1%25u20442 inches thick. Rhude says his company starts with kiln-dried dimensional lumber, then glue laminates it to achieve the kind of strength demanded by highway projects.
Concrete pads have been poured on both sides of the chasm and will be used as assembly sites for the trusses. Martin says the trusses for the previous pre-fabricated bridge project, Giddings Road, were built horizontally, raised and lifted across the span. However, trusses for the new bridge will be built vertically and the floor beams installed between them while they are still on the pad. Each of the four 152-foot-long spans will then be moved in place using cranes.
Assembly of the trusses should take about 45 days, says Martin. Although construction schedules are always subject to change, a target date of early September has been set for moving the completed trusses to the three piers and two embankments that will support the bridge. Thus, the lower framework of the bridge should be in place for the 24th Annual Covered Bridge Festival in early October.
Martin says bridge fans who want to see the construction progress should visit the northwest side (Route 84 to State Road) in evening hours. Heavy equipment is still being used at the southeast end, creating a hazardous situation for visitors.
It won't be until late next spring or early summer before the bridge is open to traffic. Martin says the opening date will be dictated by the kind of weather Old Man Winter delivers. There will still be much work to do once the trusses are in place: the floor deck, siding, roof trusses and roof will all have to be added, a retaining wall built on the embankment and landscaping completed below the bridge and at the approaches.
The bridge will be the longest wooden covered bridge in the United States, beating out the current champions in New Hampshire and Indiana by more than 150 feet. Hartland, New Brunswick, has the world's longest covered bridge, 1,282 feet.
Martin says his predecessor, John Smolen, didn't set out to break records, however, when he did the preliminary design of the new bridge. The focus was on creating a much safer, stronger passage across the Ashtabula River.
To that end, the new bridge is engineered to handle all legal loads, including semi-tractors and school buses. The interior section will be 30 feet wide. The bridge also will have pedestrian walkways on each side. Each walkway will be 5 feet wide. Yellow southern pine siding will be on both sides of the walkway to a height of about 4 feet, but the upper section of the interior will be open to reveal the trusses.
Rhude says one of the delays in the project was changing the original plans, which called for a single walkway along the roof line. That would have put pedestrians more than 100 feet above the gulf and required installation of an elevator for handicapped visitors. The revised walkways will be about 80 feet above the riverbed and at pavement level.
The roof will be galvanized metal for long-term durability and low maintenance. The siding will be stained and have an appearance similar to the Harpersfield Road bridge.
The one thing that's unknown about the bridge is it's name. There's already a State Road bridge in Monroe Township.
"We can't call it the State Road Bridge," says Martin. "We've been referring to it as the number 17 bridge."
Work on the project began in early August 2006. Construction required building an extended embankment on the southeast side of the Gulf. This was done to lower the bridge's height and create a straight span. Martin said that without the embankment, the bridge would have required a slight curvature, which would have been much more difficult to engineer.
Creating this southeast embankment required moving at least 180,000 cubic yards of fill dirt to the site. Plymouth Ridge Road landowners, Edwin and Debbie Friedstrom, were willing to supply about half the material from a field owned by their family. The balance of the fill is coming from a cut in the elevation.
Having an adjacent source of fill allowed the use of larger off-road equipment to move the dirt while reducing transportation costs. Further, it kept thousands of dump trucks filled with dirt and slate off public highways.
Work on that end of the project is ongoing by Koski Construction. Forty hours a week, there is a parade of dump trucks and earth-moving equipment from the Friedstroms' property to the southeast embankment and back.
Friedstrom says property owners in the area were given the opportunity to volunteer fill in exchange for a pond.
"They get the material and we get the lake, that's pretty much it," says Friedstrom.
When the last load has been pulled from the property, the Friedstroms will be left with an irregularly shaped, five-acre hole 20 feet deep at it's greatest depth. A spring's outflow will be diverted to the pond, which is expected to fill in 18 to 36 months.
With the large pond so close to what is certain to become a major tourist attraction, the Friedstroms are weighing commercial uses for their property. Nothing has been decided at this point, however.
"I'm just very happy to have a pond," says Friedstrom.
The bridge's original competition date was late-fall 2007, but a wet autumn threw the project off schedule. Martin says that while the construction will be a major attraction for visitors to the Covered Bridge Festival, there will probably be a separate dedication ceremony when it opens to traffic next year.
With this bridge well on it's way to becoming a reality, is the county engineer' entertaining thoughts of an 18th bridge covered bridge?
"Gosh, no, at this point, no," says Martin. "There are some locations that probably would be well suited for them, but at this point, we're concentrating on this one."
Star Beacon Print Edition: 6/26/2007
Timber-construction phase of new bridge to begin in July
By CARL E. FEATHER
Nativity exhibit to open in Kirtland
Volunteers are still busy putting up more than 600 Nativity scenes for the nationally acclaimed exhibit at Historic Kirtland in preparation for the formal opening on Friday. A lighting celebration and musical program will begin 6 p.m. Friday. Nativity sets representing countries and cultures from around the world will fill the Visitors Center and the one-room schoolhouse located next to the center. The theme of the 11th annual exhibit is “Unto Us A Son Is Given.” Admission is free and open to the public. Historic Kirtland is located at 7800 Kirtland-Chardon Road, just off Route 306 south of I-90.
Odd Tales of Ashtabula County
Twins were pretty rare in Williamsfield Township, so when Correne Cutlip delivered twin girls on April 22, 1939, her husband, Bob, started calling neighbors and relatives with the good news and a plea for help: they would need twice as much of everything.
Guilty of treason!
She was a lonely child, precocious, some said; others said she was simply aloof. Two things for certain, she was beautiful — neighbors often remarked on her black curls — and odd, especially by the standards that existed in Conneaut in 1916.
Those 10 Calaway girls
In an era when many couples are happy to dote on just one offspring and most U.S. McMansions have at least 2.5 bathrooms, the story of the Calaway sisters is amazing.
The music got him 'All stirred up inside
Floyd Hewitt loved to listen to the radio, especially that cool jazzy music that got him “all stirred up inside.”
The romantic bachelor
The brass plate is partially obscured by the July grass that grows about the stone substrate.
Second of a two-part series on the Big Blow of November 1913
Launching an industry
Shortly after midnight on Sept. 26, 1941, German U- boat No. 203 fired four torpedoes into convoy HG-73 north of the Azores.
Ransom for an attorney’s little boy
Tony Muscarelli, 13, and Willie Madden, 12, were walking down Depot Street, Ashtabula, on the evening of March 20, 1909, when a 30-year-old man accosted them from across the street.
Kelsey’s Run rambles through the flatlands of Conneaut Township Park, carving graceful curves in the grassy area just north of Lake Road and slipping quietly under the two stone bridges in its final stretch toward Lake Erie.
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- Nativity exhibit to open in Kirtland