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Many area bridges classified ‘deficient’

By Staff
In four-county area, 123 of 406 bridges, culverts have flaws
By MIKE VOSS
Contributing Editor
Thirty percent of the bridges in Beaufort, Hyde, Martin and Washington counties are classified as either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation.
DOT officials contacted Friday said they are confident that state-maintained bridges are safe and the chances of a bridge collapsing, as did the one in Minneapolis earlier this week that killed at least five people and injured at least 100 people, are extremely remote.
In North Carolina, just under 31 percent of bridges and culverts throughout the state’s 100 counties are classified as either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
DOT lists a bridge as structurally deficient if it is in relatively poor condition or has insufficient load-carrying capacity. The insufficient load capacity could be because of the original design or a result of deterioration. DOT lists a bridge as functionally obsolete if it is narrow, has inadequate under-clearances, has insufficient load-carrying capacity, is poorly aligned with the roadway and can no longer adequately service today’s traffic.
A bridge is considered deficient if it is either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
That doesn’t mean Division 2 couldn’t use additional money for bridge maintenance, he said.
Smith said DOT closed the Grimesland bridge over the Tar River on Wednesday to make repairs to it after DOT workers determined the structure needed some immediate work to prevent further deterioration.
Smith and DOT bridge maintenance personnel in area counties referred some questions about state-maintained bridges to DOT’s communications division in Raleigh.
DOT inspectors have the authority to close a bridge if an inspection determines that immediate, corrective measures are needed to make the bridge safe for traffic, Seneca said.
DOT’s bridge inspectors also have the option of “posting” maximum weight limits for vehicles using a bridge if they determine that bridge likely cannot support heavy vehicles such trucks and buses, Seneca said. Some “postings” may have a seven-ton limit and/or a 13-ton limit for vehicles.
A bridge with a “posting” of less than seven tons is not considered structurally sound enough to support trucks or buses, according to DOT’s Web site. Such as bridge will be posted as “WEIGHT LIMIT X TONS NO TRUCKS OR BUSES.” The numeral for the appropriate weight limit will be placed where the X is located in the previous example. Seven tons is considered to be the weight of a small, public school bus fully loaded with children while 13 tons is the weight of a large, public school bus fully loaded, according to the DOT Web site.
DOT has $65 million in its current fiscal year budget earmarked for bridge maintenance across the state, Seneca said. The statewide Transportation Improvement Plan include $303 million for new bridges in fiscal year 2007-2008, he said.
Beaufort County has 119 bridges and 31 culverts, with 38 bridges or culverts listed as structurally deficient. Thirteen bridges and culverts in the county are listed as functionally obsolete. Beaufort County is in DOT’ Division 2.
Of Hyde County’s 51 bridges and 20 culverts, 11 of them are classified as structurally deficient. Eighteen bridges or culverts are considered to be functionally obsolete.
Martin County has 86 bridges and 36 culverts, with 18 of them listed as structurally deficient. Ten bridges or culverts are classified as functionally obsolete.
In Washington County, six of its 47 bridges and 16 culverts are classified as structurally deficient. Nine bridges or culverts are listed as functionally obsolete.
Hyde, Martin and Washington counties are in DOT’s Division 1.
North Carolina has 12,053 bridges and 4,979 culverts throughout its 100 counties. Of that number, 2,427 are classified as structurally deficient. The state has 3,176 bridges or culverts listed as functionally obsolete.
Earlier this week, Tom Crosby, spokesman for Charlotte-based motor club AAA of the Carolinas, told The Associated Press that none of the state’s bridges are in danger of collapse. In February, a report compiled by AAA said North Carolina ranked 11th in the nation in the number of substandard bridges and is the worst in the South. North Carolina has twice as many bridges as South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, according to the AAA report.
According to The Associated Press report, the AAA report concludes the worst bridge in North Carolina is the Interstate 40 Business span over State Route 4315 in Forsyth County. The 52-year-old bridge, which has held the worst AAA ranking for six years, is scheduled for replacement in 2013.