Three Augusta bridges rated 'poor'

They are the city's repeat offenders.

Three Augusta bridges were ranked in poor condition for at least the past four years, based on a biennial inspection report from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The Fifth Street Bridge over the Savannah River, Goodrich Road over the Augusta Canal Spillway and Fenwick Street over the Augusta Canal all have problems such as corrosion and deterioration of bridge components.

Dennis Stroud, the director of Augusta's Public Works Department, said that Augusta's bridges are aging but that without funding for major repairs his department must simply maintain, observe and fix the problems when they arise.

"We're not so bad off compared to other cities," Mr. Stroud said. "All of our bridges are stable but we have an older infrastructure."

According to the most recent inspection report, which was given to the Richmond County Maintenance Department in June 2006, none of the county's bridges is unsafe for travel. However, based on ratings of good, fair and poor, the three worst structures still have some serious problems.

The Fifth Street Bridge is "in poor condition with corrosion and section loss of the steel superstructure," and the abutment of the Goodrich Road bridge "is breaking apart and should be repaired immediately," the report said.

The same DOT report for Columbia County said all the inspected bridges were in fair or good condition.

Aiken County officials referred a reporter to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, which did not provide specific data on that county's bridges.

Mr. Stroud said his department does regular maintenance on the Fifth Street Bridge and has addressed some of the problems in the report.

In his opinion, the bridge should be restricted to pedestrians unless the county government approves funds to complete a major overhaul.

"The Fifth Street Bridge probably needs to be closed, and we'll just let bicycles on it," he said. "But other than that we're in good shape."

He said more serious structural problems would have to remain until the city locates funding and hires a contractor to repair the problems.

"They're not great, but the city is not ready to replace them yet," Mr. Stroud said.

City Administrator Fred Russell said he was not aware of any bridge projects that were funded and scheduled for major reconstruction or repairs.

"In the grand scheme of things, yesterday this wasn't a priority for anybody," Mr. Russell said Thursday. "That's a shame, but that's just the way it works. Nobody has told me we've got anything that isn't safe, and if they tell me that then obviously we'd make a decision to shut it down. We've got things we need to work on, and we're aware of that."

Staff Writer Michelle Guffey contributed to this article.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.


STATE REACTIONS

Georgia claims to have first class maintenance

ATLANTA - Georgia's Department of Transportation has been inspecting bridges in the state for years, and a spokeswoman says the state's bar is higher than the federal bar.

"We are very confident in it," said Carrie Hamblin, a medial spokeswoman for the DOT.

"We have about 9,000 bridges in the state," Ms. Hamblin said. "Fifty percent fall into state responsibility and 50 percent are local. The DOT inspects all of them, regardless of jurisdiction."

She said local governments repair local bridges.

"We inspect (bridges) at a minimum of two years," she said. "We have not changed our policies and procedures in light of this (Minneapolis collapse)."

1,033 bridges deemed 'structurally deficient'

COLUMBIA - More than 1,000 bridges in South Carolina have the same "structurally deficient" designation given to a bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis. But, state officials said Thursday, the spans aren't necessarily unsafe.

State Transportation Department officials said there are no bridges like the one in Minneapolis. Of the 8,330 bridges that the agency inspects, 1,033 are structurally deficient, meaning at least one primary component does not meet federal standards.

The agency conducts more than 6,000 inspections a year. Bridges with load restrictions are inspected yearly, while non-load restricted bridges are checked every two years. About $2.9 billion would replace structurally deficient bridges, officials said.

- Edited from wire reports