Growing Safety Concerns After Second New Concord Bridge Closes

Published: .
Updated: .

Some residents in one Muskingum County community are finding it difficult to deal with traffic problems associated with a construction project.

They said a longer commute isn't even their biggest concern. They said decreased safety tops their list.

"We're looking at 10 extra minutes," said Jim Willey, who delivers pizzas for Earl's Pizza in New Concord.

He said an ODOT project that began this spring on the State Route 83 bridge forced him and other drivers to take detours.

"It's been pretty bad here lately," Willey said. "(Construction) has increased the traffic through town here."

10TV first reported in May that drivers were using a wooden bridge on South Liberty Street as an alternate route.

That bridge is no longer an option after the county engineer determined last week that the bridge wasn't safe, leaving drivers with fewer options.

"It's either go all the way another mile out the road here and take a back country road or go back up this way and take a bunch of other routes to get back on the main road," Willey said.

The bridge closures are affecting more than pizza delivery times.

Firefighters told 10TV the closures are leading to slower response times for them too.

"But (the delayed response) hasn't affected the outcome of the run yet," said New Concord Fire Chief Brent Gates. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed."

Gates said a fire run from New Concord to Claysville would have taken about 10 minutes before the construction, but that same run now takes his firefighters anywhere from two to five minutes longer.

"One minute can make a difference on some runs," Gates said.

Gates said the longest response delays involve accidents on I-70 when traffic is occasionally diverted through the village.

"All the traffic's coming through New Concord," he said. "We have all this construction. It adds some time to our response when it happens. Sometimes we have trouble getting back to our fire station, let alone getting out to that second run."

While the firefighters hope they can get to their emergency calls as quickly as possible, all Willey can do is hope at least one bridge re-opens sooner rather than later.

"Hopefully soon," he said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation told 10TV the Ohio 83 bridge work is scheduled to be finished in October.

The county engineer's office said there are no immediate plans to fix safety concerns with the wooden bridge on Liberty Street. It will remain closed for the foreseeable future.