After years of city and state planning, a bridge is back at High Bridge Road on Vermilion’s east side. The bridge carries vehicles over Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks. A bridge dedication ceremony was held on October 30, 2018. A fire engine and police cruiser were the first vehicles to cross the High Bridge Road bridge to underscore the improved emergency service response created by this bridge, following a ribbon cutting by Vermilion Mayor Jim Forthofer and City officials. Sharon "Sue" Stempowski, former Vermilion City Council member, cut the ribbon.
The original High Bridge Road bridge, a wooden structure built in 1910, was removed in the 1980s due to deterioration. The bridge was not replaced, making it impossible to cross Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks at High Bridge Road. Motorists traveling along the roadway had to take a 1.5-mile eastbound detour to Sunnyside Road, or a 1.5-mile westbound detour to Vermilion Road, to continue on their north - or south - bound journeys. Stopped trains at Sunnyside and Vermilion Roads further compounded the detours, requiring motorists to drive another two to three miles to an overpass.
Sharon "Sue" Stempowski was asked to cut the ribbon. A nearby resident, Stempowski suffers from serious health conditions and feels the bridge could help save her life during an emergency.
According to Mayor Jim Forthofer, the new High Bridge Road bridge provides direct access to the southeastern quadrant of the City. The bridge also creates a safe and convenient way to cross active Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks that carry up to 120 trains per day.
The new High Bridge Road bridge serves a city different from when the old bridge was built in 1900, according to the mayor. It will aid the area around State Route 2 and U.S. 6, which is Liberty Avenue and Vermilion’s business corridor. More importantly, the 115-foot-long bridge will cut travel time for police, ambulances and especially fire trucks coming from the city’s east side Station No. 2.
“In emergencies, seconds count, and this bridge shaves literally minutes off of response time,” Mayor Forthofer said during the ceremony. “This bridge that we are opening can literally make the difference between life or death for some of our city’s residents.”
“Before this bridge, it took Vermilion’s first responders 6 minutes 45 seconds to reach from fire station No. 2 to the other side of this bridge. With this bridge, emergency responders leaving fire station No. 2 is only a 2 minute 30 second trip. That means a lot to a resident who has had a heart attack, and their heart has stopped. It means a lot to the mother whose baby has stopped breathing or a house that continues to burn or a traffic accident victim who continues to bleed. This bridge will make a difference,” Mayor Forthofer said.
Mayor Forthofer credited former mayor, Eileen Bulan, for starting the initiative to replace the bridge.
According to Bulan, “The impetus for this project was, foremost, improving response time for emergency responders. The City of Vermilion’s fire station is located only one mile from the bridge location. A direct route through High Bridge Road, without the risk of stopped trains, will enhance the health and safety of our residents.”
Howard P. Huebner, Ohio Department of Transportation District 3 Deputy Director, also spoke at the event.
“As we move forward in the state of Ohio, our goal is to improve the mobility of people and goods and to improve safety,” stated Huebner. “From what I can see, this does improve safety for the city, it does improve mobility.”
ODOT has partnered with communities to construct 37 similar bridges in the last 36 months, according to Huebner.
“So, we are committed to quality, we’re committed to safety, we’re committed to the efficient movement of people and goods,” said Huebner.
Fire Chief Chris Stempowski and Chief of Police Chris Hartung represented the safety forces that will benefit from the new bridge. City Council members, staff, members of area organizations and Vermilion residents also attended the ceremony.
KS Associates, Inc., a civil engineering and surveying firm located in Elyria, Ohio, was authorized by the City of Vermilion to complete design of the new High Bridge Road bridge. The bridge was funded by an 80-20 split with the Ohio Department of Transportation, with ODOT covering 80 percent of the project cost.
The obstacle that the City had to overcome to make the project a reality was to secure funding. In 2010, KS Associates assisted the City in securing $1,440,000 in federal funding through the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Municipal Bridge Program to help move the project forward. As the project progressed, KS Associates assisted the City in securing an additional $200,000 in Federal funds for Railroad force account work, a $175,000 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission, and $56,000 in federal funds for Right-of-Way acquisition.
In 2011 KS Associates prepared a Bridge Type Study that analyzed several design alternatives. In 2015 KS Associates was authorized to move forward with design. The cost-effective design is a 125’ simple-span steel girder superstructure on semi-integral concrete abutments supported by drilled shafts.
In July 2017, the City awarded a construction contract to Mosser Construction, Inc.
The new bridge cost about $2 million: $1.44 million from a federal grant; $175,000 from a state grant; $347,000 from City funds.