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Loop road pedestrian bridge won’t be rebuilt

Posted: July 20, 2011 - 8:45pm
The staircases are all that are left of the wooden pedestrian bridge that uses to cross Mendenhall Loop Road.    Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
The staircases are all that are left of the wooden pedestrian bridge that uses to cross Mendenhall Loop Road.

The wooden pedestrian bridge that was knocked out by a piece of equipment on an oversized truck load on Mendenhall Loop Road will not be replaced.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities took down the bridge portion of the structure in April, after the crash splintered beams and rendered it unusable. Since then, the wooden staircases on either side of the street have remained, with the steps boarded off.

Al Clough, DOT’s southeast regional director, said the bridge won’t be rebuilt due to the extensive work that repairing the structure would take.

The state can’t simply rebuild the structure, with the short footprint and accessible right-of-way, especially due to mandatory compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Given the space limitations, building ramps is not feasible.

“We could not replace that bridge no matter how hard we wanted to,” Clough said. “Even if we had a perfectly good bridge, we couldn’t do it.”

Transportation department spokeswoman Brenda Hewitt said the agency spoke with people in the area and the principal of the adjacent Floyd Dryden Middle School. The crosswalk and bridge is closest to Glacier Valley Elementary. She said no one thought it was necessary to put it back up.

Representatives of Floyd Dryden could not be reached for comment due to summer break, although Kristin Bartlett, district communications manager, said a “huge” portion of Floyd Dryden’s student population walks to school.

Part of the reason the state and apparently the school are comfortable with the bridge not being replaced is that several years ago the state put in a pedestrian crossing and signal not far from the bridge.

“Everyone seems to use the crosswalk,” Hewitt said. “Why spend the money to rebuild something people aren’t using?”

Clough said not only has the crosswalk improved pedestrian traffic, but egress and entrance improvements to the road also improved vehicle traffic and how the two integrate.

“The bridge had only seen limited use prior to its untimely demise,” Clough said.

The bridge, constructed in 1977, was built for $90,000.

Clough said they have to hire contractors to remove the stairwells. Although he isn’t sure exactly when they will be removed, he expects them to be gone before fall’s inclement weather begins.

Clough said an insurance settlement is still being worked out by risk management. Hewitt said insurance funds received could pay for the tear-down of the bridge, but generally aren’t collected on uninsured bridges. She wasn’t sure if this particular bridge was insured, but did not believe so.

Clough said two of the three overpasses in Juneau have been hit over the years.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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