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Thornport bridge will be replaced, not removed

NEW LEXINGTON – Perry County Commissioners decided to rebuild a Thornport bridge after all.

Last Friday, commissioners unanimously decided to retain the Thorn Township Road 79 bridge, which crosses the canal near Thornport AMVETS Post 51. Some proposed removing it to ease boat access through the canal.

Commissioner Lonnie Wood said Thorn Township Trustees and the Thorn Township-Thornville Fire Department opposed its removal. Commissioners also received a petition with more than 100 signatures opposing removal. Thorn Township Trustee Dick Boring told commissioners that the EMS department wants to save the bridge and raise its clearance when it’s replaced, if possible.

Thorn Township firefighter Michael Tolliver said removing the bridge could significantly increase emergency response times in that area. Perry County Engineer Kent Cannon said the bridge would likely be replaced in 2012. Planning for the bridge’s replacement should begin next July , and Cannon will seek more federal funding to elevate the new bridge so boaters may pass beneath it more easily. He said at a previous meeting that he has 90 percent federal funding to replace the bridge if it’s replaced soon. He said it would be seven years before he could receive more federal funding if he misses the current cycle.

Buckeye Lake Area Civic Association President Ron Craig told the commissioners he understood some local residents’ concerns about removing the bridge, but he was at the meeting to represent the boaters, and he continued to support removal. People who own businesses along the canal also supported its removal.

Cannon said a walking bridge, which was suggested during a previous meeting, really wouldn’t work because it would need to be very high and handicapped accessible. “A walking bridge isn’t the answer,” he said. Cannon reassured everyone that he would speak to federal revenue sources within the next week or two about rebuilding the bridge a couple feet higher, if possible. “I’m going to do everything I can to see what we can do,” he said.

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