West Avenue ‘Phantom’ Bridge Receives Demolition Funding

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – An abandoned, rusting steel bridge built during the 1920s that spans the Mahoning River is targeted for demolition in 2025.

The West Avenue “Phantom” Bridge is among 24 listed on the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Municipal Bridge Program, which provides funding to cities wanting to replace, repair or demolish their aging bridge infrastructure.

According to a funding list released Friday, ODOT will award $606,375 toward the demolition of the bridge. The funding would be made available during the 2025 fiscal year, ODOT said.

“The Department of Public Works is extremely grateful to the state selection committee for their decision to assist the department in the removal of this blighted, unsafe structure,” said Charles Shasho, deputy director of Public Works for the city of Youngstown.

The bridge was constructed in 1929 and was closed to traffic in 1997. The bridge connected West Avenue – which runs north off of Mahoning Avenue near downtown – across the river with an industrial section of the city known as the Riverbend District.

Access to the bridge has been cut off for years, and its trusses near the riverbanks are overgrown with grapevine, weeds and brush that completely obscure it from view.  

The demolition funding comes as community leaders, public agencies and nonprofit groups are working to improve conditions along the Mahoning River, including the removal of dams along the waterway.

“These federal resources, passed through the state, will allow us to creatively explore new uses for this part of town,” said state Rep. Lauren McNally of Youngstown, D-58th. “It’s an exciting time.”

Four bridges across the state are slated for demolition, while four others are targeted for repairs. Sixteen would be completely replaced, according to a press release from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office and ODOT on Friday.

In all, the state has allocated $27.4 million toward these bridge projects.

“Providing this funding is another example of how the state can work to support our communities to ensure that local transportation infrastructure is safe for those traveling on our roads and bridges,” DeWine said. “By repairing and replacing these bridges, we can better ensure the safety of travelers in the future.”

Last year, DeWine increased Ohio’s yearly funding allocation for the program from $11.5 to $18.5 million. The grants announced Friday are also funded with additional support from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Bridge Formula Program and with money left over from previous rounds of the Municipal Bridge Program.

Grants will pay for up to 95% of the eligible costs for bridge construction and inspection. Design costs for this year’s projects may also be funded by the grant awards.

“Previously, the Municipal Bridge Program was only able to pay for a percentage of construction cost. Now, we are also able to cover up to 100% of the design costs,” said Jack Marchbanks, ODOT director. “The additional funding provided to this program from the Bridge Formula Program will certainly help the municipalities that may not have the money for design work on these much-needed projects.”

Projects that receive funding as part of ODOT’s Municipal Bridge Program are selected based on committee recommendations and a scoring system. A funding limit of $2 million is set per project, and a local match is required for construction projects.

Pictured at top: The West Avenue “Phantom” Bridge in Youngstown.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.