JEFFERSON — Ashtabula County commissioners, acting upon the recommendation of County Engineer Tim Martin, voted Tuesday to close the Horton Road bridge over Conneaut Creek.

The engineer wants to replace the bridge with a new structure eventually, but that won’t happen for at least five years, when federal money would be available for the project. The cost to replace it with a bridge similar to the one at Tannery Hill in Ashtabula Township would be around $1.3 million.

“Bridges are expensive,” Martin said.

Located on a remote stretch of dirt road in the northern section of the township, the steel-truss bridge originally was slated for repairs this year. However, Martin said, after conducting an assessment of the bridge, the decision was made to close the bridge to all traffic permanently.

“It’s 100-plus years old,” Martin said. “It’s on the best side of caution to leave it closed.”

For several years, Monroe Township has closed that section of the road during winter months because trustees did not want their snowplows taking a chance on the aged crossing, said Robert Pixley, trustees chairman. While trustees have no say over the bridges in the township, Pixley feels the Horton Road crossing ought to be replaced.

“I would like to see the bridge replaced because it’s a long way around it,” he said. “There are not many bridges out in that section except Route 7 and State Road.”

Martin said the county considered vacating the crossing altogether, but after surveying safety forces that serve the area, it decided to put it on the list for replacement.

“They said they would like to see it remain and a replacement put in, so that’s our course of action,” he said.

No commercial enterprises depend upon the bridge. Ken Tarsitano, who owns a winery on nearby South Ridge Road, says the bridge’s closing has not affected business at his operation.

As a resident, he would like to see the county preserve the old iron bridge, one of the few still standing.

“I’d like to see it kept as a metal bridge, one of our historic bridges,” Tarsitano said. “Having an attractive bridge like that old steel bridge or a covered bridge would be to our benefit.”

Martin says a covered bridge is not an option with the current funding situation.

According to the Web site kingbridgeco.com the Horton Road bridge was erected in 1899 and was manufactured by the King Bridge Co. Founded in 1858, the Cleveland firm claimed to have built more than 5,000 bridges all over North America by the late 1800s, but few of them remain and, where they do, are often the focus of preservation efforts.

Martin said the bridge will remain in place until the funding is available to remove it and build a new structure. As for preserving the existing bridge, Martin said the State Historic Preservation Office will review the county’s request to remove the bridge when the time comes. His preference would be to replace the bridge with a structure that could accommodate snowplows and safety forces’ vehicles, and perhaps use the steel structure in one of the county’s parks. A recycled King bridge carries Western Reserve Greenway traffic over Clay Street in Austinburg Township.

The area surrounding the Horton Road bridge is steeped in local legend and history: It was the location of Tinker’s Hollow, where a foundry operated from the mid-1800s to the Great Depression. The Tinker family produced farm implements, which were said to be fabricated from a special type of cast iron, the secret of which went to the grave with its inventor, William Tinker. Its secluded location and secretive history have made the hollow a popular spot with youthful thrill seekers.

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