Our view: Keep the bridge closed

DKS Editors

The Crain Avenue bridge may be closed until Wednesday after a CSX train derailed under it Thursday because the city is still repairing broken sewer lines that were damaged by the crash.

Portage County engineer Michael Marozzi said in today’s story the train caused little structural damage to the bridge. CSX is still investigating exactly why the train failed to clear the bridge.

The bridge is described as being in “poor condition” on the City of Kent’s Web site, which describes the project. Also, it was rated “structurally deficient” during a 2001 inspection. Neither of those terms are very promising regarding the bridge’s safety for vehicles, trains and pedestrians. Portage County has maintained the crossing with annual repairs.

According to Dave Ruller’s Kent360 Blog, the bridge actually did collapse in 1964. We definitely do not want to see a similar situation recur, and we’re glad to see that the city will soon replace the bridge.

Work is due to begin in March on a project budgeted for $20.2 million to replace the bridge. That’s only four months away. Why not keep the bridge closed until it can be reopened and rechristened as the Fairchild Avenue bridge? This may be inconvenient in the short run but safer in the long run.

The project is now in its final planning stages. Construction of the new bridge, which will align with Fairchild Avenue instead of Crain Avenue and create a new intersection at North Water Street, is scheduled for a December 2011 completion.

About 15,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day, and it is the most congested intersection in Portage and Summit counties. It is the second-most traveled bridge in Kent compared to the Haymaker Parkway State Route 59 bridge. The Fairchild Avenue bridge will have four lanes, and it will reduce traffic congestion. The new bridge will also have wider sidewalks.

There had been discussion of simply replacing the existing bridge, but the city decided to try to solve some of the existing traffic problems. We will all graduate before we see the new bridge, but the bridge is clearly part of the city’s commitment to downtown improvement projects and redevelopment.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.