The West Broad Street Bridge, a closed-spandrel arch bridge, carries Broad Street and US Route 40 over the Scioto River in downtown Columbus, Ohio.
A ferry to carry a rudimentary roadway over the Scioto River had been operated by Jacob Armitage 2 since 1812 3 to connect Columbus with Franklinton. Finding it too inconvenient and unreliable, the state authorized the construction of a bridge over the river on February 15, 1815.
The state authorized Lucas Sullivant, the founder of Franklinton, 1 a 60-year franchise for an uncovered wood 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 would be charged no fee. 3 The new crossing opened on November 25, 1816. 2
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 A temporary bridge was soon erected.
The city of Columbus acquired the rights to the bridge for $10,000, of which $2,000 was from the county and $8,000 by private subscription, 3 and the Army Corps of Engineers built a new two-lane covered wooden bridge between 1832 and 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
The new crossing used all wood components except for the shingle rails in the roof, 1 3 although iron rod bracing was added later to strengthen the bridge. 3
The Scioto River bridge was replaced with an iron through truss in 1884 at the cost of $148,000. 2 3 It was heavily damaged in a flood in 1913 but was hastily repaired. 3
In accordance with a circa 1908 master plan that called for major commercial and civic developments along the Scioto River, a new Broad Street bridge was warranted. 3 A closed-spandrel, seven-span arch bridge was constructed between April 1918 and October 31, 1921. Designed by the local firm of Braun-Fleming-Knollman & Prior and built by Carmichael-Cryder of St. Louis, the new crossing cost $628,093, below the engineer’s estimate of $679,440.
Construction had been 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 denser than expected and the timber piling could not be driven in. There were also material shortages because of World War I.
Additionally, a lawsuit filed in 1921 by several taxpayers to stop construction over the bridge’s supposed excessive costs was dismissed as the crossing had essentially been completed. 3
The new Broad Street Bridge featured balustrades made from sandstone and urn-shaped balusters. It carried four lanes of automobile traffic, two streetcar tracks, and two pedestrian sidewalks. 3
The bridge deck was replaced with brick pavers in 1924, and new wing walls were built at the east abutment to connect with a floodwall in 1929. 3 On August 21, 1947, the crossing was struck by lightning which required extensive repairs to the spandrel walls. The streetcar tracks were removed after World War II and the bridge deck pavers were overlaid with asphalt. 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
The Broad Street Bridge was structurally deteriorating by 1982. 3 A detailed visual inspection was conducted by the firm Jones & Stuckey, which was then followed up with a preliminary evaluation with the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. It was found that portions of the structure, including the inner spandrel wall, were distressed and in poor condition.
Concrete cores 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 arch bridge was designed by Burgess & Niple of Columbus and constructed in 1992. 1
- State: Ohio
- Route: Broad Street, US Route 40
- Type: Closed Spandrel Arch
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 852 feet (1921); 673 feet (1992)
- Main Span Length: 105 feet (1921); 164 feet (1992)
- Deck Width: 86 feet (1921); 70 feet (1992)
- Navigational Clearance:
- “Broad Street Bridge.” Scioto Riverfront History, article.
- “Columbus Mileposts | Feb. 15, 1815: Broad Street bridge over Scioto approved.” Columbus Dispatch, 15 Feb. 2012.
- Sherman, Mark. Broad Street Bridge. Research report no. HAER OH-72, Historic American Engineering Record, 1988.