Ohioans should be able to take it for granted the highway bridges they travel are safe. Like so much of the nation's infrastructure, a substantial investment will be necessary to ensure that is so.
Analysts say about 5,700 of the 44,000 highway bridges in Ohio are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. That does not mean they are dangerous. Bridges are inspected regularly and, if unsafe, are closed, such as the once-busy Olive Street bridge that connects Niles and McDonald where the Mahoning River splits the towns.
But the number of spans that concern engineers does mean that many more will be added to the ''closed'' list unless repairs and upgrades are undertaken. That will cost money - lots of it.
Unfortunately, at both the local and state levels, funding for bridge and highway work has been very limited during the past several years. By the time township, county and state officials have taken care of routine maintenance, little funding remains for major projects.
That may be changing at the state level. Earlier this fall, Gov. John Kasich announced a $120 million initiative to reduce the backlog in bridge repair projects. The money is expected to cover needed work on about 220 bridges. Trumbull County has five bridges on that list. Mahoning County has none, presumably because it doesn't have any bridges as unsound as Trumbull's five worst open spans.
Work is expected to begin on the first 40 bridges next year. Trumbull County is not on that first-round list.
A bridge replacement project in Bristol appears to be set up for round two of the funding. Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith said the bridge is a 46-foot-long Fenton Road expanse over Baughman Creek.
In making his announcement, Kasich stressed that ''$120 million over the next three years is a really big deal.'' It certainly is.
But it will fund improvements and repairs on fewer than 4 percent of the 5,700 bridges on the ''deficient'' and ''obsolete'' lists. That provides an idea of the magnitude of Ohio's problem.
The Buckeye State is far from alone in not having enough money to take care of bridges - or highways - adequately. Kasich's $120 million campaign is a start, but only that. Clearly, he and legislators need to be considering ways to do more, before millions of Ohioans start encountering new ''Detour - Bridge Closed'' signs.