WATERVILLE — The Roche de Boeuf Interurban Bridge, which spans the Maumee River between Wood and Lucas counties, is going to be auctioned off by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
“Our duty to the public is not being met in two very significant ways with this bridge,” said Patrick McColley, deputy director for ODOT District 2. “ODOT’s mission is to safely move people and goods from place to place, and at one time, this bridge supported that mission. The bridge now, however, serves no purpose for transportation, and in its deteriorated state poses a risk to the public,” he said.
“It’s hard to tell whether it will or won’t sell. There’s obviously liability concerns that go with it and any buyer is assuming that liability,” he said. “I think there has been interest. I don’t know how serious the interest is.”
The bridge and accompanying property has already been offered to adjacent landowners, historic groups and municipalities.
“We’ve already done the initial ask and nobody was interested,” Rebecca Dangelo, ODOT District 2 public information officer, said. “So this is the final opportunity. Now we’re opening it up to the public and hoping.
“There are a lot of entities that are a part of it, because it is over water and in the river, like the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers. So there are a lot of entities that kind of have a say in it. There are restrictions and things that need to be done pretty immediately,” Dangelo said. “There has to be some kind of restoration or removal, because they can’t just let it age gracefully. It is a safety concern.”
McColley noted that issues like safe passage in the river are a consideration.
Large and small parts of the bridge have been falling into the river. It was built in 1908 and used as an electric interurban trolley line. It was declared unsafe for equipment traffic by ODOT in 1983.
ODOT gave options for the bridge at a 2019 public meeting in Waterville, for which more than 200 people showed up to voice concerns. Some were concerned about the safety of boaters while others wanted it to remain as a public landmark.
It was noted during that event that five of the 11 spandrel walls have failed. Spandrels are the earth filled concrete piers that held up the arches. The remaining ones could fail at any time, because water gets in, freezes and adds to the cracking.
Estimates to fix the bridge were as high as $15 million.
The options ranged from doing nothing, which ODOT did not consider feasible, to removing and rebuilding the structure. Other feasible options included removal of the structure at a cost of $2.2 million and rehabilitating a single arched span that would cost an estimated $3.9 million.
“We just found out that we own it about five years ago. That was its own issue. There’s a lot of history that goes through that structure,” McColley said. “I don’t think anybody knew who owned it for decades.”
The auction will take place on June 30 at 10 a.m. at the Maumee Rotary Pavilion at Side Cut Metropark, 1025 W. River Road.
The Roche de Boeuf bridge, which crosses the Maumee River, will be up for public auction along with the accompanying property, located in Middleton Township and the City of Waterville, totaling 5.627 acres.
The property consists of a 66-foot wide strip of former interurban right-of-way extending from the intersection of Ohio 65 and Forst Road in Wood County to the Anthony Wayne Trail, crossing over South River Road, in Lucas County.
Dangelo said that the Roche de Boeuf bedrock island, upon which one concrete and brick pier sits, will not be included in the sale. At least 10 Native American tribes were consulted as part of the feasibility study, because of the history associated with the island. Written record of the island’s used by tribal entities goes back to 1750.
The property, appraised at $100, is being sold in its present condition. A disclaimer and acknowledgment of conditions will be posted on the website prior to the auction and must be signed at the time of purchase.
ODOT’s notice states that the purchaser assumes all responsibility and liability for maintenance, management, securing, repair, replacement or removal of the bridge structure. ODOT will not retain any responsibilities or liabilities for or in connection with the bridge or associated property.
“I would hope that any buyer would consult their attorney before they bid on it,” McColley said.
A press statement notes that “ODOT understands the community’s appreciation of this bridge, which is why ODOT is offering it to the public at auction.”
If the property, including the bridge, does not sell, ODOT will be moving forward with a removal project.
For more information, visit transportation.ohio.gov/rochedeboeuf