West Broad Street Bridge (US 40)

The West Broad Street Bridge, a closed-spandrel arch bridge, carries Broad Street and US 40 over the Scioto River in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

West Broad Street Bridge


History

The first iteration of a bridge across the Scioto River in Columbus along the National Road, later US 40, came on November 25, 1816 2 when Lucas Sullivant, the founder of Franklinton, opened an uncovered wood bridge. 1

It replaced a ferry that had been operated by Jacob Armitage 2 since 1812. 3 Finding it too inconvenient, the state authorized the construction of a bridge over the Scioto on February 15, 1815. The state authorized Sullivant a 60-year franchise for the bridge and tolls of two cents for each head of cattle, 3 cents for pedestrians, 12½ cents for each horse and rider and 75 cents for each carriage pulled by four horses. The postal service, military members, churchgoing individuals, legislatures and those in funeral processions were charged no fee.

Shortly after Sullivant’s death in 1824, his son, Joseph Sullivant, 1 obtained the rights to the crossing but it collapsed in a flood in 1832. 3

In 1832, the city of Columbus acquired the rights to the bridge for $10,000 ($2,000 of county money and $8,000 by private subscription) 3 and the Army Corps of Engineers built a new two-lane covered wooden bridge from 1832 to 1834. It was part of a plan to construct the National Road, which was being extended westward from Wheeling, West Virginia to St. Louis. 2

During the construction of the permanent bridge, a temporary crossing had been erected but it was washed out in a flood in 1834. 3

The wooden bridge used all wood components except for the shingle rails in the roof. 1 3 Iron rod bracing was added later to strengthen the crossing 3 but ultimately the bridge was replaced in 1884 with a stronger iron through truss bridge. 2 3 It cost $148,000 and included stone masonry abutments and center pier. The bridge was heavily damaged in a flood in 1913 but was hastily repaired. 3

Memorial Bridge

A closed-spandrel seven-span arch bridge was constructed from April 1918 to October 31, 1921. 3 Designed by Braun-Fleming-Knollman & Prior of Columbus and built by Carmichael-Cryder of St. Louis, the new crossing cost $628,093, below the engineer’s estimate of $679,440.

Construction was hampered by three successive floods in 1919. 3 The design of the foundations for the piers had to be subsequently revised due to the flooding and subsurface conditions. The substrate was more dense than expected and the timber piling could not be driven in. There were also material shortages due to World War I.

A lawsuit as filed in 1921 by several taxpayers in a bid to stop the bridge project, citing excessive costs, but the crossing was all but complete and the suit was dismissed. 3

The Renaissance Revival styled bridge featured a balustrade made from sandstone and urn-shaped balusters. It carried six lanes of traffic, two of which were streetcar tracks, and two pedestrian sidewalks. 3 The bridge was built in conjunction with the redevelopment of the city along the Scioto River corridor in accordance to a circa 1908 master plan.

The bridge deck was replaced with new brick pavers in 1924 and in 1929, new wingwalls were built at the east abutment to connect with a new floodwall. The crossing was struck by lightening on August 21, 1947, requiring extensive repairs to the spandrel walls. Streetcar tracks were removed after World War II and an asphalt driving surface was installed atop the brick pavers.

New sidewalk slabs were poured on top of the existing sidewalks to incorporate buried Ohio Bell Telephone Company cables and Columbus & Southern power lines in 1963. 3

Replacement

The West Broad Street Bridge was structurally deteriorating by 1982. 3 The county retained Jones & Stuckey to perform a detailed visual inspection, which was then followed up with a preliminary evaluation with the Ohio Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration. It was found that the outer portions of the bridge from the inner spandrel wall out were distressed and in poor condition.

Concrete corings were taken in 1984, 1986 and 1988, and it was determined that rehabilitation of the bridge would not be feasible. 3

A closed-spandrel, five-span replacement was constructed in 1992. 1 Designed by Burgess & Niple of Columbus, it features shallower arches than the previous iteration.

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