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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 23, 2009

Closing of Weaver Road bridge concerns residents

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — The bridge connecting one end of Weaver Road, with its 20 houses, to Route 146, has been closed, and will remain closed for the foreseeable future, leaving residents with concerns.

The bridge itself is owned by Albany County, while Weaver Road is owned by the town of Guilderland.

The bridge, according to William Anslow, civil engineer for Albany County, was built in 1975, before stress concrete beams were used. Bridges built without stress concrete beams typically have a life span of 30 to 35 years, said Anslow, and the Weaver Road bridge is 34 years old.

A hole in one of the beams of the bridge was brought to the county’s attention, said Anslow, and the first response was to plate the hole, and reduce the allowable load over the bridge to 10 tons.

Workers for the state’s Department of Transportation inspected the bridge last week, Anslow said, and made the decision to red-flag it for traffic. “We had to make a decision and act quickly,” said Anslow. “The smartest and safest thing to do was close the bridge.”

The county set up a detour for the residents of Weaver Road, which sends them down Route 146, and around the corner to Hawes Road. One of the concerns, noted by a Weaver Road resident, is a blind spot created at the intersection of Hawse Road and Route 146, due to the steep hill.

“The construction of the roads hasn’t changed just because the bridge is closed,” said Todd Gifford, supervisor of transportation for the town of Guilderland. “Weaver Road residents might not be used to driving that way. If there is a blind spot there, it’s always been there. I think it’s just a matter of slowing down and taking a good look.”

Another concern cited by a resident is that, up until recently, the bridge has been rated a five as far as safety is concerned, meaning there is no real need for attention or repair. “How could the bridge suddenly go from being safe, to having faulty beams?” the resident wanted to know.

“Unless you have x-ray vision, you really can’t see what the beams are doing,” said Anslow. It is not necessarily that the bridge was not carefully inspected, or rated incorrectly, he said. Things really have to be taken apart, and layers need to be peeled back, before damage is discovered, Anslow said.

Some parents on Weaver Road are worried about school buses not being able to go over the bridge to do pick-ups, forcing the children to walk some distance to be picked up on either Hawse Road or 146.

“The bridge closing affected five bus routes,” said Christine Sagendorf, transportation supervisor for the Guilderland School District. “We’ve changed them all around to ensure the safety of the children,” she said.

The elementary school children now wait on Hawes Road in the morning, to make sure that they are picked up on the door side of the bus and don’t have to cross the road, said Sagendorf. The school district’s department of transportation has also talked to the county to make sure the bridge is still safe for pedestrian traffic, Sagendorf said, so that there is no issue with children walking across the bridge to get to and from the bus.

There is no timeline in place for when the bridge will be fixed or reopened, said Anslow. “It would require a new deck replacement, and that’s not slated in the budget right now,” he said. “Even if we started to design today, we wouldn’t be able to get things done until next year.”

“We’re in the infancy of this,” said Gifford. “We’re really going to have to work with the county to come up with solutions to the potential problems this could create, especially if this turns into something long-term.”

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