25% of county’s bridges said to be in need of upgrades
A new report by industry and lobbying group Transportation for America claims 10 of 40 bridges in Morgan County are structurally deficient.
The report found that 21 other county bridges are in good condition and that nine bridges are functionally obsolete, but not structually deficient.
Transportation for America is a Washington-based coalition of business interests including real estate, housing, environment, public health and transportation.
For the report, Transportation for America analyzed the national bridge inventory data of the Federal Highway Administration.
Bridges were rated on three components: superstructure (above the road); substructure (below the road); and deck (driving surface).
Bridges are rated from 0-nine, with nine being the best. A bridge with a rating of four or less for any of the three components is considered by the Federal Highway Administration to be structurally deficient, meaning engineers have identified a major defect.
A state may restrict heavy traffic or close a bridge that is structurally deficient until repairs are made.
West Virginia is ranked as the eighth worse state for percentage of structurally deficient bridges. Nearby Pennsylvania ranks worst.
The average expected life of a bridge is 50 years. The oldest bridges in Morgan County were built in 1900 and the newest in 1996.
Of the ten bridges considered structurally deficient in the county, the oldest was built in 1915 and the newest in 1971.
The ten included three bridges across the Cacapon River and seven across Sleepy Creek.
“Under the existing federal program, transportation agencies have tended to delay needed repairs and preventive maintenance by directing funds toward new construction,” according to the group’s report.
In 2008, states spent 30% of their federal transportation funds on new roads and adding capacity to existing roads, but only 13% on bridge repair or rehabilitation.
That year, West Virginia spent 20.2% of its federal funds on bridges.
The cost to repair or replace bridges continues to grow. “West Virginia will need $578 from each driver to fix all the structurally deficient bridges,” according to the report.
What’s being done
“We are aware of which ones are bad and we try to take them on a priority basis,” said Gary Klavuhn, district bridge engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways District 5 in Burlington.
The biggest bridge project in Morgan County, he said, is “reconstruction” of Fishers Bridge on Rt. 9 in the Largent area. A $2.5 million contract has been awarded to Bilco Construction Company of Newton and work is expected to begin soon.
Klavuhn called it a reconstruction rather than replacement because the concrete bridge piers in the river of the existing bridge will be reused.
The next local bridge project in the pipeline is replacement of the River Road arch bridge. A design consultant has been hired. The project is estimated to cost $3 million. “It will depend on funding, but work should start in 2012 or 2013,” Klavuhn said.
“Down the road, identified for replacement is the Duckwall Bridge on County Route 8 near Johnson’s Mill,” Klavuhn said.
A preliminary design study has been done but a design consultant hasn’t yet been hired.
“Though we need to continue expanding our transportation system, the safety and preservation of existing bridges and roads must be a higher priority for our long-term economic competitiveness and fiscal sustainability,” the report said.