Debate over fate of Roche de Boeuf bridge intensifies amid safety concerns

Published: Nov. 20, 2019 at 10:21 PM EST
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A deteriorating landmark has become dangerous and a major liability as parts of it keep falling into the Maumee River.

ODOT owns the Roche de Boeuf bridge in Waterville. Residents want to save it, but the state says safety concerns mean something has to be done.

Two interesting points were brought up Wednesday.

A kayaking group mentioned that the pieces of the bridge that are already in the river are great for white water kayaking and training. Plus, the possibility that another private entity may want to purchase Roche de Boeuf from the state was discussed.

It once was an interurban trolley bridge over the Maumee River. The Roche de Boeuf bridge is part of the National Register of Historic Places. It has stood since 1908.

"It's been painted and written about and photographed for a hundred years by artists," said Waterville resident Janice Braida.

It began slowly crumbling after it was abandoned in 1937.

"It's tough when icons get old," said Waterville resident Diana Waugh.

It's a Waterville landmark and a feature on the city's logo. Now, the icon is the center of debate.

Two years ago the city of Waterville sent a letter to ODOT expressing safety concerns.

Pieces of the bridge fall into the water and the state believes it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt. Namely those who kayak and canoe under its arches.

"We have been asked, you know, why can't you just do nothing or restrict traffic for canoers and kayakers and unfortunately with ODNR we are not allowed to do that. So, we have to do something to improve the safety, but we're hoping we can find something that fits the community," said ODOT District 2 public information officer Rebecca Dangelo.

Since no vehicle or foot traffic has crossed the bridge in decades, this is a unique project for ODOT.

The agency held a public input meeting Wednesday to discuss the future of Roche de Boeuf, explaining nine options. But only three are considered feasible and the most cost effective one is removal, which has Waterville residents like Tony and Janice Braida upset.

"The Colosseum in Rome, I mean it's aging gracefully. I was there. Parts of it are not structurally in tact. But, people still go to visit it. They're not going to destroy it. It's part of Rome," said Tony.

"And this is part of Waterville's history and we're here to fight for preserving it," Janice added.

The state has agreed to foot the $2.2 million bill for tear down costs. Any kind of rehabilitation would cost millions more and private funding sources would be required. These funding issues are all too familiar to longtime Waterville resident Diana Waugh.

She was part of a committee in the 1970s that tried to save the bridge when it first started to deteriorate.

"We were looking at $300,000, we could possibly save it and we didn't. We weren't lucky enough to find someone who would hand me $300,000 and now we're in the $15 million and that's the problem," said Waugh.

to leave a public comment for ODOT to consider. You can do so until December 20. The goal is to begin the design phase next summer.