Houck Covered Bridge damaged by apparent drunk driving accident
An alleged drunk driver crashed into one of the county's oldest covered bridges in a recent early-morning accident.
County highway officials estimate it will take between $1,500 and $2,000 to repair Houck Covered Bridge, which crosses Big Walnut Creek in northern Washington Township.
The damage to the 133-year-old bridge appears to be entirely cosmetic.
Shortly before 1 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 23 Jeremy L. Hutson, 41, Greencastle, was westbound on County Road 550 South, just east the bridge, in a 2001 Chevrolet Blazer.
Deputy T.J. Smith reported that Hutson's vehicle left the right side of the road and hit the guardrail leading to the bridge.
The SUV continued along the guardrail until it struck the northeast corner of the bridge and came to rest.
Hutson was transported to Putnam County Hospital, where he was treated for minor bleeding and tested for alcohol.
When Hutson tested above the legal limit of .08, he was taken to the Putnam County Jail and booked in at 4:24 a.m. for operating while intoxicated.
Deputy Smith estimated total damages in the accident between $2,501 and $5,000.
Built by the Massillon Bridge Co., Houck Covered Bridge is a 210-foot, two-span bridge that carries County Road 550 South across Big Walnut Creek.
Along with the Dick Huffman Bridge in Washington Township and Dunbar Bridge in Greencastle Township, Houck is among the oldest remaining covered bridges in Putnam County. All three were erected across Big Walnut in 1880.
Houck Bridge was rehabilitated in 1994, and will be bypassed with a modern bridge in the coming years.
The new bridge will be constructed upstream of the covered bridge with two primary goals for the project.
The first is to increase the safety of the intersection of county roads 550 South and 500 West. As currently configured, 550 South takes a 90-degree turn onto 500 West immediately west of the bridge.
Not only will the new bridge connect the two roads at a safer angle, it will also take away the blind entrance to the turn (not a factor in this case) caused by the covered bridge.
The second goal is to preserve the historic structure as a walking bridge with room for visitors to get out of traffic and tour the bridge at their leisure.
Bids on the project will be accepted later in 2013, with the bridge likely to be completed in late 2014.