Bridge Project Creating Traffic Headaches In Muskingum County

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UPDATED: Friday May 2, 2014 5:56 PM

A bridge project in the Muskingum County village of New Concord is creating traffic headaches not only for residents but also first responders.

ODOT crews began to reconstructing the bridge deck on Ohio 83 in early April and originally left one lane open for southbound traffic.

ODOT says it was forced to shut down both lanes of the bridge on April 25 after drivers repeatedly ignored the new traffic patterns.

Drivers now have to find alternate routes including a much smaller bridge on S. Liberty Street less than a half mile away.

"I certainly hope that that bridge is safe because we have had buses and semis cross that bridge,” said George Shegog, a New Concord resident.

Village officials estimate that traffic has quadrupled on S. Liberty Street since construction began on the Ohio 83 bridge.

The S. Liberty Street bridge can handle only one vehicle at a time, and its design prevents drivers from seeing if they are headed into oncoming traffic.

"Sometimes, it's a little crazy lately,” said New Concord resident Nina Ware.

It's not just the increased traffic that has folks concerned. The S. Liberty Street bridge was built to handle about 8 tons, meaning fire engines have to find an even longer detour.

"We go out further. We can go clear up another bridge over the interstate and take us two miles out of our way or three miles out of our way if we have to,” said New Concord Fire Chief Brent Gates. “It is slowing response down."

Gates says his department has a large territory including portions of several townships.

He says ODOT has been cooperative, allowing his crews to cross the construction site if necessary.

But Gates says having to move barricades at the site and taking detours could add several minutes to emergency runs.

"A minute can make a difference,” Gates said. "Time is essential to our job that we want to do here to protect our people."

Gates says no matter what, his firefighters will work hard to protect their residents.

“We're going to deal with it, and we're going to make it work,” Gates said.

As they do, residents like Shegog want the construction to finish quickly.

"They have to close things to make it better, and it may inconvenience someone but just hope and pray that it doesn't cause a delay that could have saved someone's life,” he said.

ODOT says the $2.1 million project is scheduled to be completed in October.

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