While many bridges on Grays Harbor are showing their age, state Department of Transportation officials claim that all of them are safe for travel — although there will be some safety equipment updates in the near future.
Two major bridges in Aberdeen have received “structurally deficient” ratings in recent DOT bridge inspections: the Heron Street Bridge crossing the Wishkah River and the Chehalis River Bridge carrying Highway 101 traffic south, and connecting South Aberdeen to the city’s downtown.
The Heron Street Bridge falls into the category because of a wobbly pier, which the state has no immediate plans to repair, said Chris Keegan, the operations manager for the DOT’s Olympic region. The bridge was built in 1949 and last inspected in March of this year.
“It’s an old bridge, so there are things to do, but it’s in generally good shape,” Keegan said.
The Chehalis River Bridge, built in 1955 and last inspected in March of 2012, also has a faulty pier. Water currents have caused erosion around the affected pier, which won’t be repaired in coming months, Keegan said.
But a “structurally deficient” rating doesn’t necessarily mean the bridges are dangerous, said Claudia Bingham Baker, a DOT spokeswoman.
“We have a robust inspection system on the bridges,” Bingham Baker said. “Each bridge is inspected at least every two years. If we have concerns about a particular element, we’ll check them more frequently than that.”
“We don’t let the public travel over bridges that we have any concerns about,” she added. “So there is no bridge on the state highway system that is open to traffic if it’s dangerous.”
However, DOT officials have decided to make some changes to the Simpson Avenue Bridge in Hoquiam in the wake of Thursday’s collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge crossing the Skagit River near Mount Vernon.
A sensor detecting whether oversized loads are too large to traverse the bridge hasn’t worked since September of 2012, and a new sensor system should be installed sometime next week, Keegan said. DOT officials believe the Skagit River Bridge collapse was triggered by an oversized vehicle hitting the bridge.
The original Simpson Avenue Bridge sensor, which was installed about 20 years ago, was disconnected in September of 2012 while DOT crews worked to increase the bridge’s clearance. The bridge initially had 14-foot, 7-inch clearance, but now the clearance is 16 feet.
The bridge was built in 1928 and passed inspection in early May.
“It’s in relatively good shape for such an old bridge, but it is continuing to deteriorate and show its age,” said Harvey Coffman, a DOT bridge preservation engineer. The Simpson Avenue Bridge has had a “structurally deficient” rating in the past, but crews closed the bridge in August of 2010 to install pier supports and strengthen the walls of existing piers.
The Wishkah River Bridge in Aberdeen has also been subject to recent DOT improvements. In 2012, crews strengthened the bridge to allow oversized loads to cross.