Newly built Third Street bridge called a symbol of unity

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Oct. 14—The new Third Street bridge opens about a month from now, and local officials say they hope the new structure isn't just viewed simply as a way to get from here to there — but instead is seen as work of art and a symbol of unity.

Officials say the new 720-foot bridge that spans the Great Miami river is a major improvement over the structure it replaces.

The new $17 million bridge looks better and has five lanes instead of four, wider sidewalks, a shared-use path and sculptures and artwork honoring Dayton's history, said Paul Gruner, Montgomery County engineer.

"There was agreement that our Peace Bridge should speak to African American struggles, our city's rich history, and the legacy of this important structure," Gruner said.

Many of the 17,000 motorists who traveled across the bridge each day until it closed will be relieved when they no longer have to take detours that add time and distance to their trips.

On Wednesday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the Third Street bridge, which closed in early 2020.

The bridge isn't expected to open until next month, because it still requires some finishing touches to the bike ramps and roadway approaches, Gruner said, and RTA lines need hung.

Design work on the new bridge began years ago and community input was a priority, Gruner said.

Artists Bing Davis and Steven Weitzman were aesthetic consultants who helped bring the community's vision to life, officials said.

The bridge has carved images from the original 1963 Peace March, as well as art honoring the Wright brothers, Paul Laurence Dunbar and a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King.

The bridge also has ornate observation platforms and African Adinkra symbols.

Davis said he hopes the bridge will be a destination that draws people to it.

Davis' studio is located in the Wright Dunbar Business District, which is just west of the bridge.

Weitzman has created public art for major institutions across the country, including a sculpture at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and a Frederick Douglass statue at U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Weitzman said, "This is your story told by you, through this project."

A bridge that once was seen as a divider, separating the eastern and western parts of Dayton, is now a symbol of unity, linking the communities, said Jack Marchbanks, the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation who grew up in West Dayton.

Extensive public input work made sure this bridge reflects the history of the community, he said.

The old bridge was falling apart.

The lower foundations of the former structure were built in 1904, and not too much later one of the piers failed because of erosion and a major rehab was needed, engineering officials said.

A steel superstructure was installed in 1949, which in recent years deteriorated, and the deck especially had issues, and pieces concrete were falling onto a bike path below, officials said.

"This bridge and its lovely artwork will be a focal point for Dayton and Montgomery County," said Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge, adding it will provide a place where people can gather for celebration and reflection.

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