What once was a ho-hum, slightly worse-for-wear bridge over Hawcreek is about to be unveiled as a stylish gateway to the east side of Columbus.
Motorists can catch a glimpse of improvements in the State Street Revitalization Project this morning when all four lanes of traffic open at State Street and Central Avenue, signifying completion of the first of a multi-phase improvement project.
The city spent $2.1 million on the bridge improvements, designed to more stylishly connect downtown Columbus to the east side of the city.
The phase also includes a People Trail connection on Central Avenue to the bridge and includes two plazas on each side of the bridge with several benches, brick pavers and lighting.
An 8-foot walking path was installed on the north side of the bridge, while a 6-foot sidewalk was added on the south side, designed to encourage pedestrians and bicyclists to explore both sides of the bridge.
Force Construction of Columbus has served as general contractor for the first phase, originally scheduled to be finished in November. But delays in obtaining materials from suppliers caused the timeline to be extended, said Heather Pope, city redevelopment director.
However, other factors have also come into play, said Amy Roberts, Force Construction’s job superintendent.
Among her crew’s challenges were dealing with adverse weather and a delay in obtaining the red architectural vertical elements that are a signature item for the new bridge design, she said.
Five 12-feet-tall architectural vertical elements with LED lights will be placed on both sides of the bridge, Roberts said. Still under production, Force workers will return to install the final architectural details in July or August, she said.
“They’re not something you’ll see anywhere else,” Pope said.
Other than that, all the work tied to the first phase will be finished by next week, she said.
Crews finished up curb work and blacktopped around the curbs earlier this week, while permanent striping on the road was also planned, Roberts said. Some of that work resulted in occasional lane closings on Central Avenue through the intersection on the west side of the bridge.
Roberts, who has been with the company for more than 15 years, described the project as unique because of all the architectural features involved. However, she said she has enjoyed the past few weeks seeing the final touches come together, describing it as “icing on the cake.”
In addition, landscaping has been placed around the bridge with trees and shrubs located at the northwest corner of State Street and Second Street and at the State Street and Central Avenue intersection.
A red-accented rail which matches the Columbus “red” of the Robert N. Stewart bridge stands out in contrast to the greenery. Roberts said the railing has added a special look to the bridge because of its color.
The public will be able to see different types of wildlife such as ducks, geese and fish in the creek below as they walk across the bridge, she said.
“It feels like you’re more part of the environment,” Roberts said.
Rikki Hege, owner of Salon 1750 on the east side of the bridge, said she is excited about the changes.
Hege opened her business on State Street on Feb. 1 after relocating from National Road, and is watching the transformation of the area.
“I feel like it’s really connecting us to downtown,” she said. “Everybody’s excited about the growth, and I think other businesses will prosper and grow over here as well.”
Don Albert, manager at Scheidler Glass, said he likes the appearance of the bridge and thinks it will be more user-friendly — for individuals who use electric wheelchairs, for example, as well as the many bicyclists and walkers who will find it easier to cross through the city.
Albert hopes the State Street improvements will be a magnet for more merchants to the east side of the city.
“You like to see something — another restaurant, another grocery store — to draw more people,” Albert said.
Albert also said the two plaza areas with benches and trees should be popular destinations, especially for families.
After Memorial Day weekend, a new crew will begin work on the next phase for State Street, Pope said.
The city awarded a contract to Dave O’Mara Contractor Inc., based in North Vernon, for nearly $2.2 million for work on the second phase, which is divided into two sections.
The contractor will be working to link the just-completed bridge work to a new pedestrian trail and sidewalk through the east side of Columbus to Mapleton Street. This section of work is being designated as 2A — and will be followed by 2B, which will link the trail and sidewalk to downtown Columbus, adding a pedestrian trail down Fifth Street that will connect to Mill Race Park.
New 6-foot-wide sidewalks will be installed along the south side of State Street on the east side of the bridge to Pence Street, Pope said.
A new 8-foot-paved trail on the north side of the bridge to Mapleton Street is also planned. The city plans to use pavers that match the city’s downtown Streetscape to provide aesthetic continuity on both sides of the bridge.
As with all construction work, traffic lanes will shift on State Street as the work begins at Mapleton Street in June moving toward the bridge, Pope said.
“You’ll likely see some lane closures on the north side of the road,” she said.
The O’Mara firm will be installing new public green spaces at Stadler Drive and at Indiana Avenue and State Street. The green spaces will have trees, brick pavers and puzzle benches, while the pedestrian streetscape will have new lighting and a sculptural red wave element along the path.
Landscaping will also be in place at Stadler Drive and State Street in an effort to shield traffic from the surrounding neighborhood, Pope said.
Work on phase 2A is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 1.
The city is paying for the State Street Revitalization project using Tax Increment Financing district funds.
The project to improve State Street and connect the east side to the downtown area has been underway since July 1, 2014, as part of the city’s comprehensive plan.
Assistant Managing Editor Julie McClure contributed to this story.
Work on the next phase of the State Street Revitalization Project, designated as 2A, is expected to begin after Memorial Day.
Five 12-feet-tall architectural vertical elements with LED lights will be placed on both sides of the Hawcreek bridge sometime in July or August.