EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – A bridge in East Liverpool has been closed for six months, cutting off some of the city’s residents. Not only are they tired of the alternate route, now they’re also concerned about their safety.
The sound of trains has the Klondike neighborhood shaking with concern.
The Elizabeth Street Bridge closed in January, meaning everyone on Michigan Avenue has to go to Putnam Street — the only way in and out of the neighborhood.
“I mean, it might not sound like one little bridge would make a difference but it is a difference,” Evelyn Applegate said.
When trains stop and unload at SH Bell, they can block the crossing for 15 minutes — effectively closing those residents in and keeping everyone else out.
“When you hear the train coming, you know you’re going to be stopped. You just know you’re going to have to wait,” Patty Mook said.
Those waits are frustrating, watching 100 plus train cars go by.
That’s led to the biggest concern — if there’s a medical, police, or fire emergency at the same time.
“We’re all worried if anything does happen over here and a train does stop, it blocks the crossing and how long do we really have to wait?” Mook said.
The City of East Liverpool, Norfolk Southern, and SH Bell have plans in place in case that happens.
The old bridge — built in the 1930s — was closed after the Ohio Department of Transportation found girders cracked and collapsed and the rebar exposed and rotted.
“The entire bridge has to be replaced. You just can’t put a new top on it. The structural supports, everything has to be replaced so there’s a lot of engineering that goes behind that and it’s going to take a little time,” said Safety Service Director Brian Allen.
Trains make vibrations. The supports have to go 30 feet deep for a new bridge, which has to be high enough for a train to go underneath. Also, the bridge has to fit with the state route at the end.
“There are people that live in there that get frustrated. I don’t blame them, I would be frustrated if I lived there as well,” Allen said.
A new bridge is coming but no one in the neighborhood really believes what they’re hearing about how long it should take to replace.
“2019 is the two years but that just seems too far. That’s just too long,” Applegate said.
Allen said this issue will probably come up every six months until the bridge is replaced.
Normally, ODOT provides 80 percent of the funding. East Liverpool is getting 95 percent of the eligible costs for the $2 million project.