Three bridges top list of 'infrastructure emergencies'

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Washington, D.C., government insider publication The Hill has come up with the top five infrastructure emergencies that need to be addressed, with three bridges among the five projects.

The Brent Spence Bridge, I-10 Bridge in Alabama and San Francisquito Creek bridges were considered to be in dire need of repair. Washington’s Metrorail system and the Gateway Rail Tunnel in New Jersey and New York were the other two high-priority infrastructure emergencies.

According to a 2006 Kentucky Transportation Cabinet study, the Brent Spence Bridge was designed to carry 80,000 vehicles per day. Approximately 150,000 vehicles were crossing the bridge each day in 2006, with about 200,000 vehicles expected to cross in 2025.

In April, Land Line reported that Kentucky passed a bill permitting public-private partnerships for road and bridge work funding, but banned tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge. At a cost of $2.6 billion, Kentucky and Ohio will need public-private partnerships to fund the replacement and renovation project.

In Alabama, major congestion along Interstate 10 in Mobile is causing issues for motorists. According to Assistant Region Engineer Matthew Ericksen, the interstate was originally designed as a 55 mph curve going into the tunnel.

“Fifty-plus years later we’re having to deal with 100,000 vehicles coming through there during the summer,” Ericksen said. “Traditionally, it backs up to an hour or hour-and-a-half wait just to get through the tunnel during the summer peak travel movements.”

Alabama is in the preliminary stages of constructing a new bridge adjacent to the tunnels, which will be four lanes each direction. The Mobile River Project is projected to relieve the capacity issues along I-10.

On the West Coast in Palo Alto, Calif., a series of structurally deficient bridges built between 1931 and 1957 at Highway 101, East Bayshore Road and West Bayshore Road over San Francisquito Creek have caused flooding problems for motorists. The bridges have the lowest creek flow capacity along the flood-prone creek, according to the City of Palo Alto’s website.

In 2008, the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority and Caltrans worked together to design new bridges to reduce flood risks in the area. Caltrans began work on the bridges on June 5, 2015, and is expected to complete the project in October 2017.

Over on the East Coast, the North River Tunnels, which have been around for more than a century, are nearing the end of their lives. In addition to the wear and tear of aging, Hurricane Sandy flooded the tunnels and caused damage to wires, electrical systems, concrete bench walls and drainage systems, according to an Asbury Park Press report. In a 2014 Politico article, Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman said that the tunnels have less than 20 years before one or both are shut down.

The Metrorail in Washington, D.C., is facing a different kind of problem: human incompetency. According to The Hill, that public transit system “has been plagued by a string of high-profile safety lapses and reports of mismanagement.” Two smoke incidents have occurred at the Metrorail, one in January 2015 and the other earlier this year. Last year’s smoke incident resulted in one death and dozens more hurt.

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