Columbus, Ohio, has long been known for its beautiful bridges across the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. Built in the early 20th century, these multi-span concrete arch bridges frequently had open spandrels and lovely decorative touches that helped create a vibrant and beautiful downtown.
And then, one by one, city officials started knocking them down and building new bridges. Only a couple of the old bridges remain. The truth was, many of these bridges were crumbling and needed to be either restored or replaced. City officials chose to replace, which of course made many in Columbus unhappy as those bridges were part of the city’s identity.
The 1937 Main Street Bridge, which carried the old National Road across the Scioto River, was among those razed. Because of its open spandrels and art deco design touches, its destruction was a real loss.
At least the city commemorated this bridge by placing its builder’s and dedication plaques on a concrete marker at the replacement bridge’s west end.
Fortunately for the people of Columbus, city officials intended the replacement bridges to have their own beauty and give a new look and feel to downtown. The Main Street Bridge was to be unique, with a grand arch soaring high above its two decks – one for motor vehicles, and one for pedestrians. Unfortunately, nobody was happy when the bridge cost $40 million more than budgeted and Columbus residents found themselves on the hook to pay for $15 million of the overage. The bridge was completed in 2010 and opened to one-way traffic. It was finally opened to two-way traffic two days before I visited it.
The arch is dramatic.
As I stood on the pedestrian deck with my camera, a steady stream of bicyclists rode by. I waited for several minutes for a break in the action, as I generally prefer my road and bridge shots to be free of cars, bicycles, and people so you can really see the road or bridge. (It does sometimes occur to me that the shot would be more photographically interesting with cars, bicycles, and people in them.) Notice how the pedestrian deck is higher than the motor-vehicle deck.
I run afoul of many of my fellow bridgefans when I say that if the old bridge had to be replaced, this is just the kind of bridge to build in its place. 100 years from now, assuming Columbus is wise enough to maintain it well, I say that city residents will feel proud of this and the other new bridges, because they will long have been part of the city’s identity.
Speaking of other new bridges, this is the new Rich Street Bridge under construction. It is meant to replace the old Town Street Bridge, built in 1917 to replace, as best as I can tell, an earlier bridge at Rich Street.
After crossing the Main Street Bridge, the National Road follows Starling Street north to Broad Street, where it turns left and rejoins US 40.
On the ground, I thought Starling Street was closed. But now that I reflect on it, this was probably neighboring Belle Street.
Regardless, because so many other streets in downtown Columbus were closed because of bridge construction and associated reroutings, I couldn’t get my car anywhere near the Main Street Bridge to drive over it. After driving around confused for fifteen minutes, to great relief I finally found Broad Street and followed it across the Scioto River to where the National Road met it and assumed its path out of town.
I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.
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Last updated on 22 March 2020 by Jim Grey