Bridge makes 'structurally deficient' list
Road commission says there's no 'immediate danger'
November 03, 2010 - It seems like Oxford's always making lists these days. Unfortunately, it just made one that's not good to be on.
|The Maloney Ave. bridge is “structurally deficient,” but it’s still safe to use and is being inspected regularly. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)|
A bridge located on Maloney Ave. (north of W. Drahner Rd.) made the list of 3,055 bridges throughout Michigan that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
The list was compiled and released last week by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA), which represents a broad spectrum of highway construction companies and suppliers. The group is a leading voice in efforts to secure adequate transportation funding at the state and federal levels.
Although the Maloney Ave. bridge was labeled as "structurally deficient," Craig Bryson, spokesman for the Road Commission for Oakland County, indicated "it's not in any immediate danger."
"(During) our last inspection of the bridge, the inspector had some concerns about the potential, future stability of some of the timbers and some of the bolts," he explained. "But it's not something where there's any imminent threat or risk. We'll continue to monitor it closely in the future."
Bryson said that while the bridge is "technically structurally deficient," that description is a "very broad term."
"That means anything from very minor structural issues to (being) on the verge of collapse," he explained. "This (bridge) is on the very minor end of that definition."
Bryson noted the bridge is on a two-year inspection cycle right now. This year was an inspection year and a report will be filed with the road commission in early 2011.
Should the bridge begin to show signs of more significant deterioration, Bryson said the frequency of the inspections would increase.
"In this case, we're comfortable that inspecting it every two years is going to be adequate for at least a little while," he said.
Built in 1973, the two-lane bridge is made of timber and used by motor vehicles traveling along Maloney Ave. to cross the point where Clear Lake and Long Lake meet.
A timber bridge is apparently quite a rarity around these parts.
"I cannot, off the top of my head, think of any other timber bridges on our system," Bryson said.
Given the structure's "not that old," Bryson was surprised that it's not made of concrete like other bridges.
Residents who frequently traverse the bridge needn't worry about its safety because the road commission is keeping a close eye on it and will take action when the time comes.
"There aren't any plans to replace it or do any additional maintenance to it. It's just a matter of watching it to see if it deteriorates any more and if so, to what extent," Bryson said. "If at some point in the future we get concerned about it, obviously we'll begin to seek replacement funding."
However, obtaining funding is easier said than done.
"The problem is when it gets to that point, it's going to be tough to find funding for that bridge because the funding is handed out based on things like traffic (volume) and the size of the road," Bryson explained. "The good news is it's eligible for federal bridge funding. The bad news is it's not likely to ever rise high enough to actually get any, not for a long, long time."
Bryson said the Maloney Ave. bridge is "a symbol of the larger problem."
"We've got at least 14 bridges ahead of that in the funding line and no funding for most of them," he said. "Many of those bridges are in far worse shape than this one. Bridge funding in general is a fairly serious problem."
Bryson noted the road commission's got a bridge in Rochester Hills on Avon Rd. that's in pretty bad shape. It's five-lane bridge on a heavily-traveled road with "one lane closed because there are big holes in it" and "at this point, no money to replace" the structure.
According to the MITA, the 3,055 Michigan bridges that are listed as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete represent 28 percent of the state's 10,831 bridges.
Of those bridges on the list, 1,332 are the responsibility of the Michigan Department of Transportation, while 1,723 are the responsibility of local governmental units.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.