Arizona bridges among the best, 16 in Maricopa County considered 'structurally deficient'

PHOENIX - Nearly 20 Maricopa County bridges are in need of closer monitoring or extra repairs, according to a federal bridge database that tracks the nation's bridges.

According to the most recently available national data in the 2011 Federal Highway Administration's National Bridge Inventory , 16 bridges in Maricopa County are considered structurally deficient. Experts say that doesn't necessarily mean the bridge is unsafe. 

It may need repairs, closer monitoring, or more frequent inspections, according to Nancy Singer, a spokeswoman for the Federal Highway Administration. She said the term "structurally deficient" may also mean the bridge has a load restriction for vehicles that travel on top of it.

The database helps determine which bridges qualify for federal funding.

"We are one of the better states in the nation in terms of condition of bridges," said Jean Nehme, the State Bridge Engineer. "We have been ranked in the top five since the bridge inspection program started," he said. "We have a very good population of bridges."

"Based on federal guidelines," he added, "we have to inspect every bridge once every two years," he explained.

Many bridges in Arizona are inspected by the state, but the City of Phoenix maintains and inspects its own bridges.

CITY OF PHOENIX BRIDGES

For example, the city of Phoenix maintains the structurally deficient bridge on 15th Avenue near Indian School Road. According to the City of Phoenix, the nearly 55-year-old bridge has never been repaired due to funding constraints.

City officials consider the bridge "strong, sturdy and safe,' according to Sina Matthes, a spokeswoman for the City of Phoenix. 

She said the bridge is now inspected annually, as a result of its structurally deficient status.

Bridges are designed to last an expected 75 to 80 year life, Matthes said.

"We have 427 bridges in Phoenix and of those, two or 0.5 percent are ‘structurally deficient,' which is well below the national average," she wrote in an email to the ABC15 Investigators. 

"Our bridges are not in any imminent danger," Matthes indicated.

EXPERT OPINION

The ABC15 Investigators reviewed thousands of records on Arizona's bridges, and then invited Jerry Cannon, a bridge expert and structural engineer, to look at some of the bridges in person.  

"What I see right now is an old canal bridge that looks like it is performing quite well, but you can't tell unless you get into great detail," Cannon said, assessing the 15th Avenue bridge near Indian School Road from the road.

Canal water prevented him from checking underneath the structure at 15th Avenue near Indian School Road, but we showed him inspection photos and records supplied to ABC15 by the city of Phoenix.

Cannon pointed out some areas that he said should be addressed, including exposed metal.

If rebar is exposed, "it can corrode, and if it corrodes, it can rust away," Cannon said, "and it's not going to be there very much longer. It's a very good indicator you need to do some maintenance on the bridge."

Cannon said the most vulnerable bridges are older, steel truss bridges, like the Hereford Road Bridge, which collapsed in 2003 in Cochise County. 

A cement truck was heading east along the bridge, but when the driver turned around and crossed back over the bridge a second time, it collapsed.

The truck was too heavy, and should not have crossed based on the sign posted next to the bridge, restricting the weight the bridge could hold. 

16 STRUCTURALLY DEFICIENT ON FEDERAL 2011 LIST

The bridges listed below are the 16 in Maricopa County that have been labeled structurally deficient. Many have been replaced or repaired, and some have scheduled repairs.

There are also a few that have very limited traffic or are not currently used by the general public, but rather by private vehicles.

The Tempe bridge, for example, is scheduled for repair within the next fiscal and calendar year, according to a city spokesperson. It has stress cracks, potholes and joints that need to be resealed.

The bridge is only open to Salt River Project traffic.

Gilbert officials said they replaced their structurally deficient bridge approximately eight months ago.

The Town of Queen Creek has plans to repair its structurally deficient bridge very soon. 

Two bridges maintained by the City of Phoenix are inspected more frequently, but there are no current plans for repair.

 

Little Squaw Creek

I 17; SB

15.6 mi N Jct SR 74

 

Sand Tank Wash

SR B 8; FAP 023

0.5 mi W Jct SR 85

 

19th Avenue

I 17

4.0 mi W Jct I 10

 

11th Ave & SFRR

I 17

3.2 mi W Jct I 10

 

Central Avenue

I 17; NB-SB

2.6 mi W Jct I 10

 

Squaw Creek

I 17; NB

15.2 mi N Jct SR 74

 

Alchesay Canyon

SR 88

45.4 mi E Jct US 60

E. Maricopa

 

Floodway

Queen Creek Rd

.3 mi W/ Higley (Gilbert)

 

Grand Canal

15TH AVENUE

.5 MI N IND.SCH.RD

 

WASH (N. XING)

WARNER-ELLIOT LP R

100' E/SACATON

 

Buckeye Canal

4th Street

0.3 mi N Jct SR 85

 

Drain Channel

64th St Driveway

0.05 mi S Shea Bvd

 

Drain Channel

64th St Driveway

0.15 mi S of Shea Blvd

 

Mill Ave

Center Pkwy OP WB

0.6 mi N of Curry Road

 

Queen Creek

Ocotillo Road

E/ Hawes Rd

 

Paloma Irrigation Canal

Unnamed road

0.5 miles S of I-8

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