By SUSAN CONDON LOVE
Steel decorations recently removed from the Porter Creek Bridge on Lake Road could be replaced next year with new ones made of more weather-resistant stainless steel.
The city is investigating the replacement of the 68 decorations, of which only five remain in place on the gothic-style, stone-arch bridge. A handful had fallen out on their own, while the city removed the others in May. All the so-called portals where the swirled, black steel used to be have been filled with bricks.
“The openings were filled in for safety reasons,” said Bay Village mayor Paul Koomar. “Many of the brackets had rusted through and were structurally unsafe or had rusted through completely and were missing. (It was) a safety risk for our children.”
It all started in the fall of 2018 when a resident contacted city service director Jon Liskovec about the deteriorating condition of steel decorations in the bridge in front of Huntington Beach. A pathway under the bridge is used by hikers and people wanting to access the beach.
Liskovec, who has worked for the city since 2003 and became service director in 2017, first thought to call the Ohio Department of Transportation. He and other city officials believed the state was responsible for maintaining the 1937 bridge with its stone veneer.
However, he discovered to his (and the city’s) surprise that the state had turned over maintenance of the heavily traveled stone structure to the city some two years before.
Communication of that transfer of responsibility “was not very complete,” Liskovec said.
Fast forward to May when, after a winter full of inspections and discussion, the city realized it had to remove all but five of the steel decorations that were tucked into 22-inch square portals. “Most of them were literally crumbling in our hands,” Liskovec said. “There was no way they could be salvaged.”
As a stop-gap solution, workers filled the holes with brick.
It was then that the internet — and specifically the Secret Bay Village Facebook page — exploded. Residents cherished the unique look of the bridge, which is one of 35 Ohio Historic Bridge Award recipients awarded by Ohio History Connection, Ohio.org and ODOT.
One of those upset was lifelong resident John Noel.
Instead of just posting complaints, however, Noel contacted the city. “I wanted to be positive in my approach,” he said, standing near the bridge on a recent rare sunny and dry weekday afternoon. “It was then that I found out the bricks were not a permanent thing.”
Noel and another concerned resident, Michael Lyden, met with Koomar and Liskovec to learn what was going on with the beloved bridge. “We learned at that point that it was a real safety issue and that they had had to do something,” Noel said.
Noel, an engineer who retired after 32 years at ABB of Zurich, Switzerland, an international technology company, became even more proactive. He contacted Bob Rose, of Rose Iron Works. Noel, Rose and Liskovec walked the structure to come up with a plan to replace the decorations.
Rose, who is donating his time, is due to come back with some proposals and designs in a few weeks, according to Liskovec and Noel.
“We do not have a cost estimate at this time,” Koomar said. “The city plans to search for grant funding and to watch for opportunities at the state and federal level as new infrastructure programs are finalized.”
In addition to the decorative repairs, the city needs to repair mortar in many spots and address concrete loss under the span caused by the rusting, expanding and contracting of rebar within the concrete.
“We have to consider aesthetics, safety, durability and cost,” Noel said.
At the very earliest, Liskovec said, he will try to have a plan and cost estimate for consideration in the city’s 2020 budget. The decorative elements alone might cost between $50,000 and $100,000.
The temporary brick solution “took two to three weeks to install,” he said. “It can be extracted in three to five days.”
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure everyone is safe,” he said.
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