NEWARK — The Village Board agreed to put needed repairs to the East Avenue bridge over the Erie Canal out to bid.
Last Tuesday, Nov. 19, the board, armed with new information from engineer Bob Hutteman from Lu Engineers, decided it would begin the bidding process to replace all 11 floor beams of the 100-year-old bridge. The beams run from truss to truss and hold the steel deck in place. Those repairs need to be done quickly, say officials.
Annual inspections by the Department of Transportation have red-flagged the bridge, forcing the village to reduce the weight-bearing limit to 7 tons. 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, built in 1913. The board has set aside its questions about whether the village actually owns the bridge after it was made clear that in the state’s hands the bridge would close indefinitely due to its low priority and limited funding resources. Although not expected to collapse into the canal, Hutteman warned the board at the October meeting that repairs would be needed soon if Newark wanted to keep the bridge open.
Hutteman has received three cost estimates at $300,000, $500,000 and $650,000. With board approval to move forward, Hutteman is expected to have project specifications ready within two weeks to put the project out to bid. The village is expected to bond the project cost for 10 years. Board members are projecting a $400,000 cost, which includes an estimated $100,000 for the replacement of the steel deck with a timber deck and to pave the surface with asphalt. This is expected to ensure the bridge lasts longer since it will prevent salt from falling off vehicles and through deck’s grating to settle in the corners of the floor beams in the winter — the primary culprit in the bridge’s deterioration.
Village highway crews are expected to be able to do the work on this portion of the project in the spring, and that would again close the bridge for undetermined amount of time.
Village Clerk/Treasurer Steve Murawski said it’s even possible, if all goes according to plan, the bid could be awarded sometime in December. Mayor Peter Blandino reminded board members that putting the project out to bid does not commit the village to anything, and if they are dissatisfied with the bids received, they can reject all of them.
“It’s not imminent that the bridge could fall into the canal,” Blandino said, but added that further deterioration over the winter months could close the bridge indefinitely.
However, there are several factors indicating the project should commence soon. The work on the beams needs to done from underneath the bridge, Blandino said, and the best time to do that is this winter while the canal is closed. Repairs are expected to take six to eight weeks to complete, during which the bridge will be closed.
One trustee sees no reason to wait.
“We need to do this,” Trustee Kurt Werts said. “I don’t see what we’re gaining by not doing this. You’re just putting it off until next year.”
Once repairs are done, Blandino said the probability is high that bridge’s weight-bearing limit will go up to support most traffic, except perhaps the Newark Fire Department’s hook and ladder truck.