These Lee High Valley Bridges have a low rating

A nearly 100-year-old concrete bridge in the peaceful community of Lower Mount Bethel Township carries nearly 7,000 vehicles and drivers daily. According to township supervisor Samantha Burns, this includes nearly 1,000 trucks daily.

Built in 1926, the bridge takes drivers to the only traffic light in the community. There, the driver can turn left and follow Route 611 south towards Easton, or to one of the two township roads, Front Street or Main Street. This is one of the many transportation lifelines of the slate belt and is the key to the community.

Despite the opposite PennsDOT guarantee, Burns said National Highway 611 Bridge was a concern for the inhabitants. She said Span is increasing truck traffic from adjacent community warehouses. She sees potentially larger vehicles using the bridge as new distribution or industrial land is built, including north of the proposed River Point Commerce Park Lower Mount Bethel in the adjacent Upper Mount Bethel Township. increase.

“It scares all of us living here,” she said, and residents concerned about heading to Martin’s Creek village on Route 611 don’t stop at the bridge if the traffic light is red, or wait for the deck if it’s a tractor. I like that. The trailer or some dump trucks are ahead of the driver.

In a sense, the Lower Mount Bethel community is lucky. In the latest inspection of the bridge in July, inspectors gave the bridge an overall “normal” rating, while the final inspection showed that it contained a “scar critical” grade. Scouring is the weakening of the piers of a bridge caused by the force of water over time.

Some of the data related to the Lower Mount Bethel Bridge (a note from an independent inspector hired by PennsDOT) is in the thousands of notes that accompany reviews of over 20,000 bridges across the state. Many of the bridges in the inspection report are rated “bad.” 101 of these spans are in the Lee High Valley, said Ron Young, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. This is one of 778 combined state- or community-owned Lehigh and Northern County bridges, Young said.

The database of inspector reports was deleted in January after the Fernhollow Bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed, injuring nine people and crushing buses and five other vehicles. No one was killed.

PennsDOT has deleted the database for bridge inspections due to security concerns. After the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obtained during the investigation In the state of a fern hollow bridge.

When such information is hidden, including Fern Hollow’s inspection report, disclosures require terrible repairs or replacements, and in some cases get immediate help despite careful remarks by inspectors. Provides a rare glimpse of the unprecedented area span.

Young said handling media requests to districts of the state, including the Lee High Valley The agency offers a public website Regarding the current condition of the bridge, without a technical inspection report.

On average, the state conducts about 18,000 inspections a year, and all bridges are inspected at least every two years, according to Young. In some situations, it will be inspected more often, but in general you don’t have to worry about deck holes or culvert joint misalignment.

“All bridges that are not rated safe by inspection will be closed. [it]”Young said.

Among the examples of Lehi High Valley’s “poor” bridges currently in the secret database, according to a review by Wake-up and information provided by Young, the following had the most noticeable or obvious problems:

  • State-owned bridge along National Highway 22, which is frequently used Over Mickley Road in Whitehall Township, many problems arose during an inspector’s visit in June, and it became clear why refurbishment was needed later this year. The approach slab has some new debris with exposed rebar. .. .. .. The joints are not watertight. Cross-section loss to beam 12 has increased near the abutment where the web is damaged beyond the centerline of the bearing. The bridge is being repaired jointly with the deck as part of the refurbishment of Route 22.It will also have The substructure works with another Lehi Valley Bridge contract that is being offered for bidding in the summer.
  • National Highway 512 Bridge At the East Allentown Ship Monoclassy Creek, the foundation and wood debris are exposed and the substructure is poor. It is inspected every 18 months and the last inspection is September 16th. Average daily traffic: Approximately 13,000 vehicles. “Based on the condition of the substructure (4-Poor), the bridge is considered structurally defective,” the inspector points out. The bridge will be repaired or replaced and bids will be placed in late 2025.
  • Wylers Road Bridge According to a July report, the Upper Macan Gee Township Overschafer Run features cases of culvert inconsistencies and cracks used in water currents. With an average of more than 5,200 vehicles per day, no weight or other restrictions, regular maintenance is planned and there is an annual inspection cycle.

Wake-up calls asked some people with knowledge of the bridge if they believed the data should be public information. Most people said it shouldn’t be open to the public, or they declined to comment.

“I trust PennsDOT and its process, and how it does things,” said John Caperilla. Civil engineer and chairman of the reading department of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “It has a regular inspection schedule that follows.”

Society ranks state bridges every four years. Pennsylvania won D + According to Capellira, about the latest ratings for 2018. But he said agencies like PennDOT are trying to identify road and bridge problems and come up with solutions that can help mitigate infrastructure problems.

He said more money would help.

“As long as the general public is concerned, it’s unlikely that the bridges will collapse all at once,” he said.

David Mante, an assistant professor of civil engineering and environmental engineering at Lafayette College, said the details of the inspection report could be misunderstood by the general public. “For example, terms such as” structurally flawed “are alert, but indicate that the bridge is no longer able to support its previous capacity due to deterioration, cracks, or other defects. I’m sorry.

“As long as structurally defective bridges are properly placed and traffic is restricted accordingly, it does not pose a life-safety risk to the public,” said the highway bridge design and structural load testing. Mante, who is teaching, said. “The bridge is not open to the public only if it cannot provide the minimum service obligations.”

Rick Morchany, general affairs director of Lehigh County, said he was responsible for overseeing 46 bridges throughout the county and that the general public should have access to Pennsylvania data. “I don’t think it’s healthy to do that,” he said, referring to protecting information from the general public.

“The tool is important to me, especially because it educates the community why it’s important to maintain the grid,” Morchany softened. “But there must be a context that I believe is very important.”

For example, I quoted Allentown’s Wire Mill Bridge, which is owned by the county and carries about 14,000 vehicles daily towards Lehigh Street along Route 145 South. It needs to be replaced for years, and work will begin in a span across Little Lee High Creek and will end in early December.

According to Morchany, Lehigh County wanted to replace a “bad” rated bridge a few years ago, but while major work was being done on the Ace Street Bridge, also in Allentown, an alternative route It was on the detour list. The wire milbridge was closed for $ 300,000 repairs in late 2017 to withstand pre-replacement wear.

At Lower Mount Bethel, Burns, who compiled a list of bridge comparisons from other PennsDOT data online, said he was unaware of the currently secret database revealed by the Post Gazette.

“It should be a public record,” she said. “These are the roads and bridges we use and we should be able to know if they are safe. If it was our bridge, the Township Bridge, [residents] That information. We’re not going to keep it away from them, saying they keep them safe by not giving them it.

“And if there’s nothing wrong with the bridge, why can’t we see it?”

Burns said the bridge is showing signs of collapse in her view, based on the Pennsylvania records she edited. She said the condition had improved, but the explanations for the various assessments were inconsistent, according to a report made by an independent PennDOT inspector.

For example, the 2015 inspection report stated that the parapet of the bridge was “unbearable” and needed to be replaced, but subsequent inspections required action as “basically unbearable”. became.

“Sometimes they don’t jibe,” Burns said.

Young said the railings on the bridge, or “guide rails,” would be replaced under an estimated $ 500,000 worth of repairs in 2024. The repair said it would extend the life of the bridge until the replacement of the bridge could be programmed into a local traffic improvement program.

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According to Burns, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s plans to repair spans over 200 feet instead of replacing them were a surprise to her and many others in the town. However, a preliminary estimate from the repair engineer is that the cost of replacing the bridge is also $ 6 million. This is an amount that, according to Young, is not automatically allocated to the bridge.

According to Young, the bridge has no weight limits and can carry loads of up to 80,000 pounds or tractor trailers.

He said other work performed included patching the deck, working on the overlay of the deck, and repairing one of the piers damaged by the scour. He said the pier had not deteriorated to the point where it could not be safely crossed.

Wake-up journalist Anthony Saramone, 610-820-6694 or

Wake-up reporter Greysen Golter can be reached at

These Lee High Valley Bridges have a low rating

Source link These Lee High Valley Bridges have a low rating

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