Washington Street Bridge

The Washington Street Bridge, a Warren through truss with a Scherzer Rolling Lift bascule, crosses Swan Creek along Washington Street in Toledo, Ohio. It connects downtown to the Owens Corning headquarters.

History

The crossing was designed in August 1919 and constructed in 1920 by the Toledo Bridge and Crane Company as a Scherzer Rolling Lift span sourced from the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company of Chicago, Illinois.1 2 The lift allowed barge and boat traffic to travel up Swan Creek and give canal boats access to the Miami and Erie Canal, as well as give automobiles access to the Middlegrounds peninsula. Middlegrounds was the site of railyards, train stations, warehouses, and various commercial enterprises.2

In 1921, the canal was closed to through traffic but a portion, from the Maumee River headwaters, was used for local shipping and small boat traffic.2 Eventually, traffic declined to the point that the canal remnant was closed to all boat traffic in 1947. The lift span was taken out of service.

The Washington Street bridge was rehabilitated in 1966, when it was likely that the operating mechanisms of the lift span, including the electric motor, operator’s house, bridge locking system, and the gear drive system were removed.2 The wood decking was also likely covered with asphalt during that time.

Rehabilitation

Planning for a new Owens Corning headquarters on the Middlegrounds began in the early 1990’s, and at the time, the Washington Street was seen as a historic structure worth rehabilitating to serve as a gateway to Owens Corning.1

To increase the load strength of the bridge, the truss superstructure was removed from its foundation and a new concrete pile foundation, deck, and fake counterweight was installed, with the original truss reinstalled in 1995.1 2 The original deck, counterweight, and rolling girders were discarded.2

“We treated it like a piece of sculpture that serves as a great gateway piece to Owens Corning.”

Mark Shoemaker, principal architect of the new Owens Corning headquarters

In 2012, the city contemplated removing the superstructure, calling it an eyesore and an inefficient use of city funds.1 The city, through Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers, claimed it spent $50,000 to $60,000 every five years to maintain the structure. Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers stated that Owens Corning wanted to remove the “eyesore” and that the city was acting on behalf of Owens Corning. In response, Owens Corning released a prepared statement:

“When the location of the structure was negotiated during the acquisition of properties required to allow the construction of our corporate facility, Owens Corning’s understanding was that aesthetic maintenance of the bridge section — which is owned by the city — would be performed regularly by the city. Today, the bridge is rusting severely and the supports for the superstructure are showing signs of deterioration. We have requested that the city provide a regularly scheduled maintenance program to ensure the long-term viability of this structure. If the level of deterioration, or any other factor, prohibits such action, we would welcome a chance to discuss other options the city might pursue.”

Owens Corning

Crothers claims were not met with warm regards by the Toledo City Historic Districts Commission.1 The commission noted that there were very few bridges of lift type remaining in the state, noting that the bridge was important to the heritage of Ohio.

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