Fear of collapse closes city bridge
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Apr 25, 2014, 07:06
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The bridge on East Broadway in Hopewell has been closed for an indefinite amount of time due to aging structural components and severe deterioration.
HOPEWELL — The bridge on East Broadway in Hopewell has been closed suddenly and indefinitely until further notice. After an inspection performed over two days last week, which revealed some very serious problems, the city had to make a quick decision to close the bridge to prevent any possible catastrophic events.
Johnny Butler, city engineer, said the bridge has been inspected “many, many” times over “many, many” decades. Though the city knew there were some aging structural components, Butler said he was surprised it was to the level that it was when the inspection was completed on April 16 and 17.
“The decision to close the bridge was based on the analysis that one of the columns had so much section loss that it had an imminent failure condition where the bridge could start to collapse,” Butler said. “It could collapse under it’s own weight so that made the decision real easy.”
The inspection, completed by STV/Ralph Whitehead and Associates in Richmond, revealed that there was deterioration at a few ‘key structural members.’
Butler explained that one of the key components that was showing rapid signs of damage was a support column.
“That was a critical finding and as such we needed to take appropriate action and that action was that we need to stop using the bridge,” Butler said. “And until such time when we make some decisions later on repairs, replacement of parts, that hasn’t been completed decided yet.”
The only monetary factor that is known is that the repairs on the bridge are going to be costly.
Butler said repairs were planned for this summer on the bridge. However with the inspection that was just completed, the repairs on the bridge have become “greater in detail and greater in expense.”
“We had actually looked at some of the repairs on the future repair project to address some of the things we found in this inspection and some of those items have worsened much quicker than we thought they would,” Butler said.
The railway system underneath the bridge is still in use.
The budget for the repairs over the summer was estimated to be about $100,000. Butler said if the repairs of the bridge exceed that budgeted amount, the department will have to get approval from City Council to allocate more funds towards the repairs.
“From a risk management standpoint, we have to understand the seriousness of the condition of the bridge. ... Until there are corrections made, it’s not something we want traffic running over,” Butler said.
The bridge, which is more than 90 years old, has a posted weight limit of 2-and-a-half tons. Butler said it has been witnessed that were trucks over the weight limit driving over the bridge despite the restriction being in place for 24 years.
Underneath the bridge lies a railroad track that is still in use by Norfolk Southern. Butler said the company uses the rail system to provide service to their ‘tank farm’ located in that same area. With the severe rusting, which had accelerated greatly over the last year, the railway underneath the bridge, and the key components being badly deteriorated, the bridge had to be closed and will remain closed.
There are some alternate routes that can be taken in and around the area. Ramsey Avenue can connect back to Station Street and then run back into the city. On the other end of Ramsey Avenue, it connects to Water Street, which goes down and connects to Pecan Avenue.