By Chris Peraino and Brittany Tesoriero
A year after its initial deadline, repairs at the Riverhead bridge on Highway 25 at the Long Island Expressway junction are still in progress, and the NY DOT has issued a new, unlikely, completion date for this spring.
Construction on the bridge began in July of 2015 with a $10.2 million budget. It aimed to amend asphalt and structural corrosion, improve the bridge’s drainage system and update its guide rail. The addition of a sidewalk, which is still nonexistent, was also part of the construction plan. Guide rails have yet to be updated and construction is still occurring on the bridge’s structure, although it remains operational. The status of drainage improvements remain unclear.
“Construction to replace the bridge deck is currently underway and is scheduled for completion in the Spring of 2017,” Ed Hearn, the Public Information Officer for the NY DOT, said via email.
The bridge, adjacent to the Hotel Indigo in Riverhead, was deemed “structurally deficient” by the National Bridge Inventory Database, a collection of federally sanctioned bridge inspections compiled by the Federal Highway Administration. It is part of Region 10, as classified by NY DOT, which has a total of 564 bridges. Since 1995, the region has replaced or reconstructed 156 of these bridges, according to its website.
“One completed, the bridge will no longer be rated as ‘deficient,’” Hearn added.
Corrosion was gradually caused by traffic and weather stress. After its latest inspection, the bridge was said to be “somewhat better than minimum adequacy to tolerate being left in place as is” according to the database. It was built in 1972.
Data for the inventory is submitted by each state’s respective Department of Transportation and may date as far back as 2014, and as near as 2016 due to inspection processes.
Inspectors rate each bridge on a 0-9 scale, 0 being collapsed. A 4 denotes poor condition and a “structurally deficient” rating. This status does not indicate the severity of a defect but rather that a defect is present,” according to the database’s website.
“Labeling a bridge as structurally deficient means that we need to develop and execute a plan to repair the parts of the bridge that are reducing its rating or replace the bridge entirely,” Ryan Giles, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Stony Brook University, said via email. “After repairs, the bridge is inspected again and assigned a new score. Because the repair or replacement plan was designed to target the faults of the bridge, the bridges typically receive higher scores.”
The Riverhead bridge is just one of seven “structurally deficient” bridges in Suffolk County. The worst rated is an East Hampton bridge off of Cranberry Hole Rd., which yields a 10.7% sufficiency rating and the following evaluation: “Basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action.” In comparison, the Riverhead bridge has a 75.1 sufficiency rating.
Poor infrastructure and roads have already started to affect some of the more than 2.8 million people live in Region 10.
“A lot of old people come [to Suffolk County] and they talk about how every year they see that it’s more dangerous for people, they’ve been here awhile so they see the change happen,” Angel Nomel, a gas attendant at a Gulf gas station in Setauket said.
Suffolk County is also plagued by 572 “functionally obsolete” bridges. Bridges of any score can obtain this classification if its geometry has become antiquated and can no longer support a contemporary flow of traffic. Most of these bridges are older and therefore, not designed for modern vehicle dimensions.
“Bridge health is very much like human health, if we paid for better preventative maintenance then our bridges would not reach such poor conditions and the traffic disruptions would be less severe,” Giles added.
Governor Cuomo’s recent allotment of $115 million for bridge repairs on Long Island and in New York City is set to start April 1. The grant will hopefully aid in quickening the process of bridge repairs.