On September 15, 2021, the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) approved grant funding to Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway (WLE) in the amount of $125,000 to improve the clearance of a railroad bridge over a state route in Tuscarawas County.
The grant will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for a combined state funding share of $250,000. The estimated cost of the project is $503,320.
W&LE owns and maintains a bridge near Bolivar over State Route 212 which has a posted clearance of 12 ft, 6 in. ODOT District 11 posted this clearance in accordance with Ohio Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) standards. Over the past 17 years, vehicles exceeding this height have struck the bridge at least 20 times, most recently in June of this year. Bridge strikes have real monetary costs and safety risks for W&LE, ODOT, roadway users, and the public at large. W&LE must inspect the bridge and track and perform repairs when it is struck, and ODOT must detour traffic and clean up the resulting debris and repair potential roadway damage. Additionally, W&LE must take the track out of service to inspect and perform repairs which leads to potential delays for rail customers. The drivers of over-height vehicles may be injured if they strike the bridge and risk injuring other roadway users in the vicinity. The degree of damage done to the bridge when struck has varied, but in several instances has shifted the entire bridge and track out of alignment. Fortunately, this has not caused a derailment. However, the possibility of a bridge strike causing a derailment is a potential danger to the public and improving the bridge’s clearance will help mitigate this risk
Matthew Dietrich, Executive Director of the ORDC, said “ORDC is happy to support the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway in this effort. ORDC, together with the railroad and ODOT, can finally resolve a long-standing concern that impacts safety and commerce for both the railroad and the highway users.”
“The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway would like to thank the ORDC for partnering with us on the replacement of the SR212 bridge span in Bolivar, Ohio. The resolution of this long running clearance concern will result in a safer experience for the motoring public, as well as enhanced safety for trains on this crucial corridor,” said Mark Svetlich, VP of Engineering, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Company.