Thursday, October 23, 2008

Westchester Guardian/Catherine Wilson.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Catherine Wilson, Bureau Chief
Northern Westchester

The AMVETS Bridge Revisited

On February 14 of this year, The Guardian ran an article on the AMVETS Bridge across the northbound (easterly) side of the Croton reservoir on the Taconic State Parkway, asking What Is The State DOT Covering Up? As noted in that article, this bridge was built in 1931, which makes it 24 years older than the Tappan Zee Bridge, completed in 1955.

According to Westchester County Planning Department estimates, as many as 75,000 vehicles cross this bridge daily, a total of over 27 million vehicles annually.

Joan Dupont, the Hudson Valley Regional Director for the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), reassured The Guardian
in February that, “DOT has a contractor scheduled for this Spring – they are currently working on obtaining environmental permits.

This bridge is to be cleaned and painted and will receive repairs to the steel structure. This bridge was inspected over the past two years as part of the state’s routine inspections and the repairs are being made as a result of that inspection.” Despite those
reassurances, preparations for this work only commenced this month.

Given the age and condition of this structure, and the obvious concerns first raised by The Guardian eight months earlier, Putnam County Legislator Tony Fusco held a press conference two weeks ago under this bridge to call attention to the deterioration of The AMVETS Bridge Revisited the structure.

A cursory glance at the steel beams revealed severe rusting in parts as well as obvious signs of corrosion. Fusco reached out to his Westchester and New York State counterparts, Westchester County Legislators George Oros and Mike Kaplowitz; New York State Assemblyman Greg Ball and New York State Senator Vincent Liebell, respectively, to join him in pressuring NYSDOT to commence maintenance and repair work on this bridge immediately.

According to Fusco, “A 2007 report by the NYSDOT classified the bridge as ‘functionally obsolete’, while giving it a dismal safety
rating of 4.0 and called its floor beams ‘paper thin’ and depicted rot that has eaten right through some of the main floor support beams.” Fusco is concerned with the delays to date with this project and the priority with which the work is being completed. “While the northbound bridge is slated for $12 million in repairs over the next year, the only visible work that has begun thus far is preparation for paint,” he noted.

“The AMVETS Memorial Bridge is in dire need of the repair, and the people have a right to know the extent of the plans,” Fusco added. He thanked the Guardian for our original article exposing the condition of this bridge and the level of traffic that crosses it daily.

Fusco is now calling for a joint hearing of the Westchester Legislature’s Safety Committee with the Putnam Legislature’s Physical Services
Committee to hear testimony on this issue from the bridge inspectors and engineers from the

According to the November 2007 inspection of this bridge, it is currently being inspected every two years.

The latest inspection noticed:

• Vertical suspenders have packed rust with section loss;

• Other areas have scattered paint peeling and surface rust, with negligible section loss;

• A structural flag was issued for 80% to 90% section loss in the web over the bearing area;

• Joint sealing material is deteriorated along the entire joint and missing a large chunk in middle lane; concrete spalling on underside of joint, at location of the missing sealing material, has created a potential for deck failure which constitutes a safety hazard for

• Floor beams have severe corrosion on their top and bottom flange angles and web plates, particularly in areas adjacent to connection to vertical suspenders.

Given the above negative inspection, The Guardian contacted Ms. Sandra Jobson, NYSDOT Region 8 Public Information Officer for further information about the scheduled repairs. According to Ms. Jobson, the NYSDOT is indeed commencing preparations for the repairs and maintenance needed for the AMVETS Bridge at present. “We are currently containing the upper portion of the bridge and will complete painting here this fall,” Jobson noted.

“We are also starting the steel repairs to the underside of the bridge this fall and will continue these repairs into the Spring. Once the repairs are completed, we will then contain the bottom of the bridge and paint this area.” The entire project has a $12 million budget: $6 million for the painting, and $6 million for the steel work.

Jobson noted that this bridge has been moved up to annual inspections. “The public should be aware that New York State has a high record of bridge safety,” she noted; federal statistics support this claim. “Drivers shouldn’t confuse maintenance with safety. If we (NYSDOT) believe a bridge to be unsafe, we will close it immediately.

Our engineers also may recommend to lighten the load on a bridge until repairs can be finished,” Jobson claimed. “In Stony Point, we have reduced the rate of traffic over the Cedar Brook Bridge on Route 9W until repairs are completed. The engineers have only allowed one lane at a time to be open; the traffic alternates to reduce the load and stress on the bridge”.

Weather and stress are the biggest culprits for bridge failures. “We (NYSDOT) use salt on our bridges in winter, so that causes the rust that the public sees,” Jobson said. “Bridges are also subject to stress from the volume of vehicles crossing them and the weight of those vehicles; engineers call that dynamic load. Dynamic load is difficult to analyze but fortunately with the AMVETS Bridge, we don’t have heavy truck traffic which exacerbates this problem.”

Local representatives, such as County Legislator George Oros, are concerned about the bureaucracy of the NYSDOT that often delays projects and eliminates necessary measures.

Oros is calling for sensors to be placed on this bridge to emit warnings when the integrity of the structure is in jeopardy. Fusco is calling upon Albany for funding to provide these sensors.

“This bridge wasn’t designed for today’s traffic, and it is over 70 years old,” Oros noted. “We need sensors to give us a warning if there are any problems. And, given the volume of traffic, we need the NYSDOT to continue to inspect this bridge annually after the repairs are completed”.

Of concern to all of our local legislators is the low ranking of 4.09 that the AMVETS Bridge received in its last inspection. The Federal rating system for bridge structures is:

9. Excellent Condition.

8. Very Good Condition: No problems noted.

7. Good Condition: Some minor problems.

6. Satisfactory Condition: Structural elements show some minor deterioration.

5. Fair Condition: All primary structural elements are sound, but may have minor section loss, cracking, spalling, or scour.

4. Poor Condition: Advanced section loss, deterioration, spalling or scour.

3. Serious Condition: Loss of section, deterioration, spalling, or scour have seriously affected primary struc-tural components. Local failures are possible. Fatigue cracks in steel or shear cracks in concrete may be present.

2. Critical Condition: Advanced deterioration of primary structural elements. Fatigue cracks in steel or shear cracks in concrete may be present or scour may have removed substructure support. Unless closely monitored it may be necessary to close the bridge until corrective action is taken.

1. Imminent Failure Condition: Major deterioration or section loss present in critical structural components, or obvious vertical or horizontal movement affecting structure stability. Bridge is closed to traffic, but corrective action may put bridge back in light service.

0. Failed Condition: Out-of-service; beyond corrective action.

There are five ratings areas for each bridge: The deck, superstructure, substructure, channel, and channel protection and culvert.

In addition to the above conditions for the structure itself, when inspecting the channel under the bridge, an inspector will determine if the banks are protected or well vegetated, the existence of any cracks or deterioration in the culverts, if river control devices and embankments are sound, the presence of debris and erosion, and any lateral movements or changes in the channel flow. Federal guidelines note that when inspecting a bridge, “The inspector needs to consider the condition of the entire bridge”. Source: Federal Highway Administration’s “Bridge Inspector’s Training Manual.”

Given the thousands of miles of roadways and bridge lanes in our area, the NYSDOT does appreciate input from concerned residents. “We
want people to feel free to contact us if they see something on our roads and bridges or if they have any questions or concerns,” Jobson said. The NYSDOT website,, provides contact information for all areas of the state and, in addition, lists all projects, past, present, and future, for each of the DOT regions; Westchester County is in Region 8 – Hudson Valley. This site lists 12 projects that are currently “under construction” in the area, including the preparations for the repairs and maintenance to the AMVETS Bridge.

The NYSDOT also has 31 projects in development for the Hudson Valley, including much-needed Metro North grade crossing improvements at Green Lane in Mount Kisco. Local residents can access project budget information, project status, and inspection reports on this website as well.

One way to slow down the deterioration of our local bridges is to reduce the stress placed on these structures. As more local residents are driving less and switching to smaller, lighter-weight cars, and more public transportation to keep their gasoline bills down, the result may also be fewer costly repairs for our state’s infrastructure, and longer lives for our bridges. The AMVETS Bridge, in particular, is one that the NYSDOT
wants to preserve as long as possible.

“It’s on the National Register of Historic Places,” Jobson boasted. “This bridge is beautiful. We (NYSDOT) want to do as much as possible to preserve its beauty along with its safety.” As Legislator Fusco noted, “They just don’t build bridges like this anymore

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