Gaysport Bridge work will resume this spring


By Staff Report

Work on the only bridge crossing the Muskingum River between the communities of Philo and Duncan Falls in Muskingum County and the communities of McConnelsville and Malta in Morgan County will resume this spring, according to the Muskingum County Engineer’s Office.

Due to structural concerns, the Gaysport Bridge was reduced to one lane for quite some time before it was closed to all vehicular traffic in 2021. It is currently undergoing reconstruction, set to be reopened to traffic in the Fall of 2024.

According to Shawn Johnson with the Muskingum County Engineer’s Office, there has been a river crossing at Gaysport for many years. The original structure was a wooden bridge, though when it first crossed the Muskingum River remains unknown.

Most recently, the bridge was a steel structure. Over time it badly deteriorated, forcing officials to at first limit traffic down to one lane, directed by a traffic light, before being entirely shut down in 2021 – pending its forthcoming demolition and replacement.

Those who travel past the construction site in southern Muskingum County will notice the historic sandstone piers have been kept and will be incorporated into the new structure.

Johnson says they were placed in the river sometime around the late 1880s, nearly 140 years ago. As part of the federal funding given to help replace the bridge, the county had to keep the sandstone piers, which will be encased in concrete to strengthen up the foundation for the new structure.

During that process, which is already partially complete, those involved in the construction found remnants of the original wooden bridge in the riverbed.

Once finished, the bridge will look similar to the recently completed Michael J. Lutz Memorial Bridge that connects the communities of Philo and Duncan Falls north along the river, with a sleek concrete path.

Currently, work has been mostly completed on the riverside opposite the community of Gaysports, with the former steel structure removed and the sandstone piers encased with concrete.

As the Muskingum River is a navigable waterway, the Coast Guard requires that at least some portion remain open to those traveling along the river, it also ensures that water doesn’t get held up at the construction site and breach over the causeway.

As winter weather subsides, crews will work to finalize removing the remaining old steel structure and encase the remaining piers with concrete. Once that is complete, work can be done on the steel and concrete bridge structure itself.

If there is enough money left over, the Engineer’s Office would like to add decorative lighting to the structure, like was done to the Lutz Memorial Bridge.

The Gaysport Bridge, once complete, will remain a two-lane crossing. AT&T telecommunications wire, which was originally run in conduit under the former bridge, was redirected via aerial cable over the river south of the construction site.

North Star Pizzeria and Restaurant, which was located next to the bridge on the Gaysports side, recently closed at the end of March after 15 years of business. The owners didn’t say if they believed the loss of regular traffic over the bridge, since it was shut down in 2021, contributed to the closing of the establishment.

According to traffic counts, when the bridge was open, roughly 1,200 vehicles crossed the Gaysport Bridge every day. Without the structure, there is an 18-mile gap between river crossings.

The federal government provides partial funding for many local bridges as they are deemed important for emergency services, commerce and the national defense. The Gaysport Bridge is set to open in October 2024.