Supervisors opt for bridge closures

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lincoln County supervisors have closed five bridges and arelowering the weight limits on several more after the structuresscored poorly during a recent safety inspection.

Marty Hilton, a district engineer with the Office of State AidRoad Construction, said the five bridges on Denton Trail, GeneRoad, Mt. Zion Road, Rutland Lane and Williams Street failed aninterim inspection conducted in February in which approximately 45of the county’s 300 bridges were inspected.

Most of the bridges were small and supported by wooden pilingswith relatively small weight limits of 6,000 pounds, supervisorssaid. Likewise, most of the bridges are on small, relativelylittle-traveled roads, except for Mt. Zion Road, which is the mostheavily traveled of the five.

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Supervisors began closing bridges immediately Monday, and plansfor repair or replacement of the weak spans are already underway.

“I recommended to the county engineer several low-cost repairoptions, and we’ll get those programmed as soon as we can,” Hiltonsaid. “These bridges were built a long time ago, and a lot of themwere built generally in times of need, when you need a bridge inthere badly.”

Supervisors plan to install culverts to replace three of thebridges – a culvert has already been installed on Gene Road – butthe spans on Mt. Zion Road and Rutland Lane are too long forculverts, said District Two Supervisor Bobby Watts, whose districtencompasses both roads.

Watts said the 100-foot span on Mt. Zion Road would be repaired,likely with fresh timber pilings shored up with concrete jackets,while the bridge on Rutland Lane will have to be replaced.

“We’re going to get the contractors in probably (Tuesday) or thenext day to get bids and we’re going to put that sucker in as soonas we can,” Watts said of both projects.

District Four Supervisor Doug Moak needs only a few days’ worthof good weather to have his bridge problems behind him. The DentonTrail bridge was already identified for replacement with a culvert,he said, and the two large pipes and heavy machinery are alreadyon-site there.

“I will probably begin work here within the next week if MotherNature cooperates with me,” Moak said.

Moak said culverts were temporary fixes that would keep theroads safe for a few years while supervisors work towardprogramming bridge installation projects with the State Aid office,an option that makes state funding available. In the meantime, thecounty will have to absorb all the costs for the five projects -which could come near six figures – or leave the roads closed untila bridge project can be programmed with State Aid, an option thatcould see the roads closed until next year or afterward.

Moak said the average cost of installing a culvert consisting ofa pair of 96-inch, asphalt-coated pipes is $10,000. Hiltonestimated the cost of repairing the Mt. Zion Road bridge atapproximately $30,000, while the cost of replacing the bridge onRutland Lane will be determined through the bidding process.

The arrival of the bridge inspection report and the suddencreation of new projects further chips away at supervisors’maintenance funds, which have depleted faster than ever withconstruction costs running high in the bad economy. Coupled with astatic funding amount from the Legislature, the higher prices haveresulted in fewer and fewer projects and less reseal mileage forsupervisors.

“We could be in a lot better shape than we are, but thelegislators don’t hand us more money,” Watts said. “I’m prettyconfident I’ve got the money, but when I get through with this, Imay not have much left. And that’s not good. The year isyoung.”

Still, county engineer Jeff Dungan, of Dungan Engineering, PA,said the closure of five bridges is not uncommon in a county withas many bridges as Lincoln, and the county would be able to handlethe projects.

“It’s usually a lot more than that,” said County Engineer JeffDungan, of Dungan Engineering, PA. “Lincoln County has the secondhighest number of bridges in the state, and to only have five thatneed to be closed is not bad. That’s doable.”

Complete details on Lincoln County’s 300 bridges can be round