Half of Orleans bridges rated structurally deficient

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 March 2014 at 12:00 am
deficient bridge

Photo by Tom Rivers – Sandy Creek flows under the East State Street bridge in Albion.

ALBION – About half of the 67 county-owned bridges are rated as structurally deficient and need work, according to an engineering report.

“It doesn’t mean they are unsafe,” said John Papponetti, an engineer with Labella Associates in Rochester and project manager for the bridge study in Orleans County.

Only one county-owned bridge, the short span over Marsh Creek at “The Bridges” in Point Breeze, is closed. But Papponetti said more bridges could face a shutdown if they aren’t rehabbed soon. Six bridges are rated as functionally obsolete and don’t meet current standards.

The county has 16 bridges that rate at a 6 or higher, which is considered in “great” shape, Papponetti said. Another 18 rate a 5, which is in good condition. But 28 are rated as a 4, which Papponetti said is poor condition. There are five bridges considered less than a 4, which is “deficient.”

“Those ones need serious work,” Papponetti said.

The county has submitted a plan to replace the decks on three bridges and perform preventive maintenance on 17 others. The $3.5 million in projects has been submitted to the Genesee Transportation Council, which will determine how to allocate $251 million in federal funding for nine counties in the Genesee-Finger Lakes region.

Papponetti, a former Albion resident, said about $380 million in requests has been made in the Transportation Improvement Program.

“We’re not guaranteed that any or all of these will get funding,” he said.

If the county’s TIP request is approved, the decks would be replaced on the Lakeshore Road bridge in Yates over Marsh Creek, the Marshall Road bridge in Ridgeway over Johnson Creek and the Dunlap Road bridge in Shelby over Oak Orchard Creek.

Papponetti said preventive maintenance – milling and paving, sealing, cleaning and other repairs – could get another 15 to 20 years out of some bridges.

The worsening condition of the county bridges mirrors a problem throughout the state, said Jerry Gray, the county highway superintendent. There hasn’t been enough federal and state funding to keep up with all repair needs, he said.

“We should be concerned about our bridges,” Gray said. “We have a lot that are borderline. We’re at the tip of the iceberg.”

Papponetti presented the bridge report to the County Legislature on March 27. A five- to seven-year plan would target other replacements and repairs for up to $12 million in construction work. If the GTC approves the projects, the federal government would pay 80 percent of the costs, with the state possibly paying up to 15 percent. The county would pay at least 5 percent of the costs.

The tight federal and state budgets have pushed resources to heavily trafficked bridges, Papponetti said. That hurts a rural county like Orleans. But he and county officials have been telling the GTC that the rural bridges are important, especially for agriculture, the area’s top industry. Shutting down a bridge or posting a weight restriction impairs the ability for farmers to get into their fields and transport their goods, Papponetti said.

Gray said the many of the spans won’t last much longer.

“A lot of them are coming of age,” he said. “We’ve maintained them all we can.”

Any span longer than 20 feet is considered a bridge. The county also has numerous culverts that range in size from 5 to 20 feet. The highway department currently doesn’t have an inventory of all the culverts. Papponetti and LaBella will be working this year to make a list of the culverts, rate their condition and develop a plan for maintaining them.

“This is the beginning of a long-term approach for dealing with highways and bridges,” said David Callard, the Legislature chairman. “We need to stretch our dollars as far as they will go.”