BY JOE WESSELS
Loveland Local News
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — First the cars got access to the bridge. Now users of the Little Miami State Park trail below can pass freely under the Foster’s Viaduct bridge.
Warren County work crews were out mid-morning Wednesday to remove barriers along the pathway under U.S. 22/3 bridge near the Monkey Bar and Grille, an area commonly known as Foster, opening the trail after 50 days closed.
Erik Martin rode his blue bike from Milford – an approximately 9-mile ride – and rested it on a “Bike Path Closed” sign as workers were preparing to re-open the trail. He makes the ride to this spot about every other week, he said.
“I’m glad the trail’s going to reopen,” he said, as he checked his cell phone.
Great Lakes Construction Company workers weren’t expecting the trail to open Wednesday morning. Employees’ vehicles were still parked on the trail under the formerly closed bridge as two workers from County Engineer Neil F. Tunison’s office untied wire, cut away electrical tape and loosened cable clamps and ultimately removed fencing and signs that were used to block the path during the overhead bridge’s construction. Other Great Lakes workers rushed to sweep and use a leaf blower to remove dirt, gravel and debris from the trail.
After the sign on the closure’s south side was removed, bikers quickly filled the void, even as workers still worked to remove bits of gravel and dirt from the path.
Four men who said they ride from Loveland every Wednesday had been going south for the past several weeks, but after hearing the bridge had re-opened, decided to try their luck going north.
“It’s beautiful,” said cyclist Bill Holman, three cycling friends by his side. “It’s wonderful. This gives us another option.”
His fellow riders Tom Cook, George Kindstedt and Dan Hahn nodded in agreement.
“The trail is very busy these days,” Cook added. The trail in southwestern Ohio is also part of the Buckeye Trail, a nearly 1,450 mile loop that winds around Ohio, running from Lake Erie to the Ohio River, including passing through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Cleveland. Loveland is a Buckeye Trail Town, which includes a free primitive campsite about 1,000 feet north of Nisbet Park in downtown Loveland.
Great Lakes workers said several times they had to stop people from walking into the construction area, despite the many signs and fencing. It got so bad that a simple sign had to be supplemented with electrical tape, cables, wires and fencing the try to keep people out. One time a woman with a few small children approached the closed area, then started to walk through the closed area.
“I told her if you’re not going to stop for me, do it for your children,” the worker recalled. “She just said, ‘C’mon, and they all walked through the (blocked off area).”
The construction site, four miles north of downtown Loveland, was constantly being vandalized. On weekends, apparently frustrated trail-goers would cut bolts, throw signs in the woods and knock over barriers, a worker said. Police would watch the area, the worker said, but they could not catch the vandals.
The six-span open-spandrel concrete arch bridge – which re-opened Tuesday evening – had been closed since June 7. The Great Lakes Construction Company won the Ohio Department of Transportation, or ODOT, contract for the approximately $7.3 million bridge rehabilitation project,
Workers did extensive upkeep on the six-span open-spandrel concrete arch bridge. Crews replaced expansion joints, overlayed the bridge, patched the substructure and upgraded the guardrail, according to ODOT.
The nearly 1,400-foot-long bridge is about 79-feet-high over the water and was built in 1937 and re-constructed in 1991. Approximately 16,000 vehicles travel over the bridge each day, with trucks making up 4 percent of the total. The bridge’s last inspection in 2018 left it with an overall “fair” rating, according to BridgeReports.com