Scores of Alaska bridges deemed 'deficient'

Posted: Sunday, August 05, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Like the Minnesota bridge that collapsed Wednesday, more than 100 bridges in Alaska are designated as structurally deficient - including the Mendenhall River bridge along Glacier Highway in Juneau.

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State officials, however, point out that the designation is what primarily determines what bridges are eligible for repair with federal funding. Five of the bridges, including the Seward Highway overpass above Dimond Boulevard in Anchorage, support more than 10,000 vehicles a day.

The designation does not mean a bridge will crumble or that weight traveling across it should be restricted, according to Rich Pratt, the state's chief engineer.

There are 124 structurally deficient bridges maintained by the state. The bridges received that designation because an inspector gave their superstructure, substructure columns or deck a rating of four or less on a scale of zero to nine.

The list includes 11 in Southcentral Alaska along the Seward Highway between Glacier Creek and Winner Creek, and four along the Sterling Highway between the south fork of Anchor River and the Kasilof River.

The Seward Highway overpass above Dimond Boulevard received a rating of four on its superstructure. That's because tall trucks sometimes strike the girders, according to Mike Chambers, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

Other urban area bridges on the list are the Mendenhall River bridge along the Glacier Highway in Juneau, the Chena River bridge in Fairbanks along University Avenue and the Hoadley Creek bridge along the South Tongass Highway in Ketchikan. The three bridges got a rating of four on their substructure columns.

The list also includes 30 bridges with weight restrictions posted. Pratt said those bridges are not heavily traveled.

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