Town Bridges Slow In Reopening After Irene

12/29/11 5:50PM By Nancy Eve Cohen
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(Host) In the past few weeks towns have made significant progress repairing stretches of roads damaged by Irene.

But 43 town bridges are still closed, including one in Wilmington. VPR's Nancy Cohen reports the town and FEMA disagree over the best way to repair it.

(Cohen) Wilmington Interim Town Manager Paul Meyers says the Haynes Road bridge was severely damaged in the flood.

(Meyers) "Right now one abutment of the bridge has completely failed. The deck of the bridge is really hanging, if I can use not an engineering term, but it's hanging virtually by a thread. And they believe that abutment should just be replaced."

(Cohen) "They" being FEMA engineers. FEMA wants to repair the existing abutment. But Meyers says engineers who bid on the job for the town say either one or both of the abutments, which sit in the stream bed, should be taken out of the water and put on the ground.

And the deck should be replaced. He says by leaving both abutments in the stream it constricts the flow of the water.

(Meyers) "If we have another event even close to Irene, you're going to have another washout of that bridge, in my opinion and in the opinion of our engineers."

(Cohen) The lowest bid the town received to fix the bridge was $540,000. FEMA has committed $189,000. FEMA spokesman David Mace says FEMA will pay to repair one abutment and shore it up with big stones, known as rip rap.

(Mace) "FEMA's bridge specialist inspected the Haynes Road bridge and determined it is not damaged badly enough to justify replacing it. It can be fixed in our engineer's opinion."

(Cohen) The town is considering whether to appeal FEMA's decision. In the meantime the bridge is expected to remain closed for the winter.

For VPR News, I'm Nancy Cohen

(Host) Our coverage of the recovery from Tropical Storm Irene is supported, in part, by the VPR Journalism Fund.


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