WATERVILLE — Demolition of the Roche de Boeuf bridge is the next step for the landmark, after a second public bid did not pan out.
“We understand the community’s affection for this bridge and know this is not the desired outcome, but ODOT cannot justify spending millions of dollars in additional taxpayer money on restoring a structure that does not serve a transportation purpose,” said Patrick McColley, deputy director for ODOT District 2.
The Ohio Department of Transportation attempted to find an interested party to purchase the bridge, but has ultimately been unsuccessful, prompting the agency to proceed with eventual demolition, McColley said.
An official timeline has not yet been determined.
At the public auction on June 30, there were two interested parties that bid on the bridge. At the end of the auction, the highest bidder submitted a bid of $6,500.
Twenty days later, the bidder withdrew the offer, and the second bidding party then signed a contract to purchase the bridge for the auction’s next highest bid of $6,000.
As part of the auction criteria, a specific feasible plan to retain and maintain or to remove and clear the bridge structure and its fallen remnants, with appropriate commercial liability insurance to cover such actions, was to be submitted.
The second party was given an initial period of 60 days, plus two 30-day extensions, with the final extension expiring on Dec. 2, to submit their plan. The department has remained in contact with the second party throughout the process.
Ultimately the second party did not produce any plans, according to ODOT. Because the second party’s obligations were unfilled the agreement is null and void.
ODOT will move forward with a removal project as there were no other interested bidders at the auction, and stakeholders and public entities have been offered the property but expressed no interest. It is estimated the process will take at least a year until removal will begin, and there will be more information about the project prior to removal.
An estimate from 2019 had the cost of removal estimated at $2.2 million. Estimates to fix the bridge were as high as $15 million. Suggestions of rehabilitating a single arched span, for historical or artistic reasons, would cost an estimated $3.9 million.
ODOT gave options for the bridge at a 2019 public meeting, which more than 200 people attended.
“ODOT’s mission is to safely move people and goods from place to place. 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,” McColley said.
The local landmark has been losing pieces into the Maumee River for years and cannot be used or rehabilitated. It was built in 1908 and used as an electric interurban trolley line. It was declared unsafe for equipment traffic by ODOT in 1983.
The June auction was for 5.627 acres in Wood and Lucas counties, including the bridge. It 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.
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.