NEWARK — The Village Board is moving forward with plans to repair the East Avenue bridge over the canal even if it can’t say for sure if the village truly owns it.
At its last meeting Oct. 16, the board asked engineer Bob Hutteman from Lu Engineers to nail down an exact cost for outside labor to repair the beams in the 100-year-old bridge. A recent inspection by the state Department of Transportation red-flagged the bridge again, and although at present the 7-ton posting will remain, Hutteman warned the village shouldn’t wait much longer to make repairs if they want to keep the bridge open.
“An incident with the bridge won’t lead to an instant collapse,” Hutteman said. “I think it’ll be safe for a little while longer, but you’re going to have to fix it.”
Hutteman told the board the repairs are in the bridge’s floor beams that run from truss to truss and hold the steel deck in place. The angles are shot in three of the 11 floor beams, requiring the beams to be replaced. He recommended the village fix all 11 beams since the others are deteriorating as well and soon in need of repair. The cost for materials alone is estimated at $75,000 to $100,000. With the labor, the repairs, including possibly replacing the steel deck, could tally upwards of $200,000 to $300,000, but the exact cost has not been determined yet.
Village attorney Art Williams said he believes the bridge is worth fixing. Fire Chief David Greco agreed, noting it would further improve response time for the fire department. The fact that nearly every village representative in the meeting room noted they use the bridge almost daily wasn’t lost on the board, but there was concern that in 10 years the bridge will need costly repairs again. Hutteman confirmed that road salt is the primary culprit in the bridge’s deterioration. Without the fire department’s time spraying the bridge down every spring, it would be in worse shape, he said.
It was suggested the board consider replacing the steel deck with a timber deck that would be coated with asphalt. Hutteman was further tasked with exploring the costs to replace the deck.
“It’s not as bleak as we thought,” Mayor Peter Blandino said, adding, “It’s never good news.”
The proposed repairs would bring the weight limit back up to 40 tons, allowing heavy duty trucks, particularly fire trucks, to once again use the bridge. The bridge would be closed for up to six weeks while repairs were made on the floor beams. No time time has been set to start repairs.
The bridge was first posted in 2011 when the DOT first began issuing red flags to the village. Back in 2003, the village spent about $1 million to rehab the bridge, which was built in 1913. Now 10 years later and the bridge is again in need of repair, but the board is also questioning whether the village owns the bridge or if it still belongs to the state.
“The paperwork that transferred ownership to the village was never complete, so I’m not clear legally if it’s the village’s responsibility or the state’s,” Trustee Kurt Werts said.
According to Williams, when the village decided to rehab the bridge, they were given two options: take ownership of the bridge and pay for all rehab costs and future maintenance costs or the bridge closes. In recent discussions with a DOT representative, it was made clear that if the state retains ownership, the bridge will be closed indefinitely due to lack of funding at the state level to make the repairs. The fact that there is a nearby bridge on either side of East Avenue does not make the bridge a repair priority for the state in light of the countless bridges that have been closed across the state and in Wayne County.
“The state doesn’t have the money, so they have no interest in the bridge,” Trustee John Zornow said. “Even if we win the ownership issue (in court), the state will close that bridge. That’s not acceptable.”