Damaged historic Preble County covered bridge to be closed for months

An historic Preble County covered bridge was damaged Friday when a semi-tractor trailer got stuck attempting to cross it on Brubaker Road, according to witnesses and the Preble County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident happened about 7:50 p.m. when the semi, driven by Jean B. Baudelaire of Orlando, Fla., turned onto Brubaker Road to get around a road closure on Ohio 122 just outside of Gratis, according to Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson. Baudelaire was driving for a Georgia company en route in Indianapolis.

Due to the construction, a detour is marked, but Brubaker Road is not part of the safe detour for large semis.

“The truck driver, instead of following the designated detour route, decided he would go down Brubaker Road ... for whatever reason, I think he thought he could get across the bridge,” Simpson said. “Quite frankly as soon as he turned on to Brubaker Road he should have known he was not going to be able to get down through there.”

It took several hours to get the truck dislodged, and now the bridge and that portion of the road are closed.

There were no injuries. The driver was cited for driving on a closed roadway and failure to control his vehicle.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Brubaker Covered Bridge, built in 1887, was rehabbed in 2001 by the Preble County Engineer’s Office, and remains an active, working bridge.

County Engineer Kyle Cross said the bridge sustained damage Friday night mainly to the roof, but much of the load-carrying trusses were not as badly damaged. The trailer, which was empty, was what failed to clear the bridge roof.

He said the process of assessing the damage, finding a consultant and bidding the repair project will take a while.

“We are hoping to have it back open by the end of 2023,” Cross said. “We want it to continue to be used by the public. It is the oldest bridge we have that you can still drive through. The covered bridges are as much of the fabric of Preble County as anything. We fixed in once, we can fix it again.”

The sheriff said the last he heard, Ohio 122 near Gratis is scheduled to reopen on Aug. 16.

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