Beamed up: Sugar Grove Cemetery bridge being installed

By Tom Barr -

A second steel beam is installed across Lytle Creek at Sugar Grove Cemetery Wednesday morning.

Tom Barr | News Journal

WILMINGTON — After a longer-than-expected wait due to steel and supply chain issues, the bridge over Lytle Creek connecting the two sides of Sugar Grove Cemetery should soon be back up and open.

In March, the project’s first phase involved removing the trusses and some demolition of the long-closed bridge. Originally, work at the site had been expected to be halted for a few weeks as repairs to structures were made off-site, with completion planned for July.

However, according to the City of Wilmington, and confirmed by an inspector with CTL Engineering out of Columbus on-site Wednesday morning, U.S. supply chain issues — from materials to workers — delayed the materials and installation until this week.

In April 2018, the city closed the bridge to vehicle traffic as a result of an emergency inspection by the engineering firm of Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc., which notified the city of its findings. The firm is contracted by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to provide inspection services on publicly owned bridge structures.

“We have an obligation to ensure public safety in the cemetery and the actions taken today, while inconvenient, will allow us to begin the process of repairing these aging structures,” Brian Shidaker, the city’s Director of Public Service and Safety, stated then.

All Sugar Grove Cemetery bridges became subject to state inspection standards in April 2015 when the city was required by law to assume responsibility of Sugar Grove Cemetery following the dissolution of the privately-funded cemetery association.

In August 2019, Shidaker discussed resolutions involving the project during a report to Wilmington City Council.

Shidaker said then that a resolution would authorize him to execute an amended Local Public Agency (LPA) project agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for the bridge project.

In an effort to address deferred maintenance of its bridges, the city applied for and was awarded funding in 2017 to repair the truss bridge over Lytle Creek as part of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Municipal Bridge Program.

The award covered 95 percent of eligible costs for repair of the bridge, up to $233,035.

Shidaker told city council in 2019 they had gone through the application process, adding there are “a lot of hoops to jump through” when dealing with federal funds — although Shidaker noted this was actually good news.

“The state and the federal government are requiring us to sign an amended agreement because the original was approved for $233,035 in federal funds. We were able to squeeze a little bit more money out of them, so now it’s $259,331,” Shidaker said in 2019, adding even then that the bridge had already been closed “way too long.”

As part of the grant process, a Historic Bridge Survey Report was completed by ODOT. The preliminary study suggests that the Lytle Creek bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NHRP).

The bridge, built in 1901 by Champion Bridge, has been identified as a “half-hip pony truss with jack-arch deck using Carnegie iron/steel” and would have significance as a well-preserved example of a Pratt Pin-connected pony truss. As such, it is the city’s intention to take the steps to repair and rehabilitate the bridge with a focus on restoration of original form and style.”

A second steel beam is installed across Lytle Creek at Sugar Grove Cemetery Wednesday morning. second steel beam is installed across Lytle Creek at Sugar Grove Cemetery Wednesday morning. Tom Barr | News Journal

By Tom Barr