Kent officials said mollusks are at least partly responsible for a delay to the start of construction on a replacement for the Harvey Redmond Bridge, which connects the Kramer Ball Fields to Fred Fuller Park.
Kent parks and engineering officials had hoped to start work on the $1 million project in the summer of 2014. City Engineer Jim Bowling said the discovery of a variety of endangered freshwater mussels in the Cuyahoga River within 50 feet of the bridge will likely delay the start of construction until November or December of 2014.
The city cannot begin demolition or construction work during the mussels' breeding season, generally between spring and summer, and must also take steps to protect them when construction begins.
"We're going to have to hire a malacologist (mollusk expert) to ... relocate the mussels before we start construction," Bowling said.
Some city officials were incredulous about both the cost of the bridge project and the reason for the delay.
"How's a bridge cost a million dollars to go across to Fred Fuller (Park)?" Councilman Garret Ferrara asked.
Bowling said the project, which is receiving $968,000 of the needed $1.16 million in funding from a federal grant, must also follow additional federal regulations, which can make a project more expensive. He said the new structure also will be significantly different from the current bridge, closed in April 2011 because of fears that a large piece of debris could strike one of the 64-year-old bridge's wooden supports and cause the it to collapse.
The current structure, with five sections between intermediate wooden supports near the center of the river, will be replaced by a three-span bridge with concrete supports farther away from the middle of the river.
The current bridge underwent a significant rehabilitation in 1995, but a recent state report indicated some of the structure's supports are "beyond repair."
Since the bridge has closed, Kent Parks and Recreation has had to move youth baseball league games to fields on Kent City Schools and Kent State University property.
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