Hamilton pedestrian bridge unlikely to happen

Mar. 18—The South G Street viaduct could eventually be replaced with a pedestrian bridge, but it's not likely as city officials said the cost would significantly outweigh the benefits.

Replacing the structure also would not prevent CSX from diverting additional train traffic, said Allen Messer, Hamilton's assistant director of Engineering.

CSX already has 21 feet of clearances at G and D streets, but the transportation company does not run taller train cars, specifically double stacks and cars carrying vehicles, known as autoracks, from using that east-west line, Messer said, citing the CSX website.

"That's probably why we haven't seen any (additional east-west train traffic) even though local restrictions have been removed," Messer said.

CSX had previously lowered its tracks, city officials have said.

Hamilton City Council recently asked the staff if the 100-plus-year-old South G Street bridge, which had been closed since 2008, could be salvaged as a pedestrian crossing.

The answer, Messer told City Council last week, was "no."

He cited inspection ratings that are significantly low, and noted the overall sufficiency rating is 14 out of 100 as it has large cracks along the arches, corroded reinforcing steel, and significant section loss.

"Typically, to have a bridge rehabilitated, it needs to be at 50," Messer said of the sufficiency rating.

If Hamilton would replace the bridge, it would need to meet current ADA and Ohio Department of Transportation standards. That means the city could be looking at a $4 million to $5 million price tag, and likely without grant funding.

The southern side of South G Street is at a higher elevation than the northern side, so after the viaduct crosses the CSX tracks, it hooks west down Puthoff Street at a 10% slope. To be a pedestrian bridge, ADA requirements require any slopes to be 5 to 8% and would require "an extremely long bridge down Puthoff Street" or the use of landings and switchbacks.

Messer is also not optimistic a multi-million-dollar pedestrian bridge project would receive grant funds as the cost heavily outweighs the benefit. When the bridge was last open 14 years ago, the daily traffic count was 750 cars.

Last month, Hamilton applied for federal grant funds through ODOT, and it would pay for 95% of the construction project, which would entail removing the bridge, making dual dead ends on either side of the street, and removing the large slope down Puthoff Street.

Hamilton is still seeing if CSX will contribute the 5% match since they would benefit from the removal of the structure.

"They're not there yet, they're still keeping the door open, but we haven't gotten that firm commitment that they would satisfy the local match to the federal grant, if we received it," Messer said.

Vice Mayor Michael Ryan believes "it's just a matter of time" before CSX brings additional train traffic through Hamilton.

"We don't want that to happen. It's just not good for all the traffic issues we have now," he said. "They have to start working with us."

Ryan asked Messer if there were other areas of town where they could explore additional underpasses or overpasses "just in case the day comes where we're potentially getting 10 more trains a day on this line?"

He said traffic is an ongoing discussion among the staff.

"We're constantly having discussions on how to make the traffic better and look towards the future, and where's our next project," Messer said, adding the major project would be the North Hamilton Crossing.