Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Just replace the freaking bridges

Johnston County has the oldest stretch of I-95, since the interstate was begun here. We also have the lowest bridges as a result. Overpasses are often being hit by trucks and closed. The bridges get repaired and then get hit again. Instead of replacing the bridges, the Department of Transportation, in their infinite wisdom, is going to pay to raise the bridges so that they do not get hit any more. We are going to pay almost $4 million to raise a few bridges one foot. Why not just replace the doggone bridges now? It will cost more, but we are also talking about the oldest bridges on the interstate! After the bridge collapse in Minnesota a while back, bridge maintenance and repair has been getting a lot of attention. We have old, banged up bridges, and instead of replacing them with wider, newer, better engineered bridges at the same time, we are going to just raise the old ones. This is abject stupidity to me and a waste of tax payer money. This is one instance where I firmly believe that we should spend more money now to save some later. Either way, it is our tax dollars, whether they are coming from the feds or the state.

From The Smithfield Herald:
The state plans to raise four bridges over Interstate 95 in Johnston County and install an over-height-protection system at another to prevent trucks from hitting them.

The $3.8 million in projects will likely begin next summer and wrap up by next fall, said Ricky Greene, a division engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation.

The bridges scheduled to be jacked up are on U.S. 701 at Four Oaks, Hockaday Road near Four Oaks, Pittman Road at Micro and Bagley Road near Kenly, Greene said. Each bridge will be raised two feet, he said.

The U.S. 701 bridge is the lowest at 14 feet 2 inches, Greene said. The others are up to 14 feet 11 inches. "There are low-clearance issues over 95 on these bridges," Greene said.

The DOT will remove the over-height protection system at the bridge on U.S. 701. When oncoming trucks are too tall, a beam triggers flashers to alert drivers, Greene said. "Even with the over-height protection, we have had some hits on that bridge," he said.

Greene said the system will be moved to the Truck Stop Road bridge near Kenly. It's cheaper than raising the bridge, he said.

Johnston bridges have been struck about three times so far this year, said Bobby Lewis of the DOT. Compared to surrounding counties, the numbers are usually high, Greene said. "Yes, Johnston County definitely has more of a problem because we have more bridges that are lower," he said.

The most recent hit was at Brogden Road, where a piece of equipment on a flatbed trailer struck the bridge, forcing the DOT to close it for about four days.

The state raised that bridge to 15 feet 6 inches a few years ago, Greene said. Now the bridge needs repairs, he said.

The number of bridge hits in Johnston might be related to age, Greene said. Usually, the lowest bridges are the oldest ones, because construction standards 40 or 50 years ago were different than they are today, he said.

The bridge projects won't occur at the same time, and interstate traffic will have to be re-routed, Greene said. Each project may take a few days, he said.

In 2006, it took a couple months for the DOT to jack up the U.S. 70 Business bridge in Smithfield, Lewis said. Drivers struck that bridge five times in 2005, Greene said.

Money for the projects is coming from $24 million in federal funds, Greene said.

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