Cornell Rd. Bridge Update

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Over the past few days I’ve engaged with several of our elected & appointed officials to attempt to get some answers, if not some resolution to the Cornell Rd. Bridge issue.  As you know it was closed when JCDOT’s engineers deemed it unsafe for traffic of any weight as of 3/15/20.  According to their official report (which I made public twice, both on FB and in these emails) the steel supporting the bridge has holes rusted through it in more than a dozen places and the rest of it is corroded to the point where it is coming off in sheets.  Because of that, the consensus is that it could collapse at any time, like say with a garbage truck, gravel truck or maybe a school bus on it.  I don’t like it but I get it, and I hope you do too.  

The first people I talked to were the folks at JCDOT who were closest to the closure.  I’ve published both the emails and a synopsis of those conversations.

Next I contacted a couple of other Township Supervisors on the chance they may have some experience and may be able to guide me to some as yet undiscovered resources.  They were helpful, but not curative.

Next I contacted our State Representative, Julie Alexander, and laid out the problem for her.  She responded immediately, having addressed JCDOT and MDOT and informed me that this bridge has been a concern for several years and JCDOT has already applied for grants and alternative funding – apparently more than once, to no avail.  She told me she knew of efforts underway to address this and asked if I would give them a chance to complete their efforts.  Of course I will, what choice do I have?  She also related that she has spoken to Christopher Bolt, of JCDOT and asked him to call me as well as providing his cell phone # for additional information.  

Wednesday (3/25/20) afternoon I spent a good 20+ minutes on the phone with Chris who shed considerable light on the issue.  He explained that the bridges were built in and around 1933 and it has been many decades since they’ve had proper care, or even good, thorough inspections.  He related that when he took over for JCDOT, he hired an outside engineering firm who specialized in inspecting bridges, consequently we are now getting much more detailed inspections and more accurate reports which means that considerably more trouble is being uncovered.  The Cornell Rd. Bridge was on a 2 year inspection schedule which had been upgraded to every year when it was found in really bad shape.  A couple of weeks ago, it was condemned.

Somewhere in this chain of events, I heard that Pulaski Township (our neighbor to the south) had the Hanover Rd. Bridge closed, too, so I contacted the Pulaski Supervisor, Bob Jones and spoke with him.  We’ve long known that our Townships were in the same boat where our roads are concerned and so decided to work together towards a solution.  We figured that maybe if we combine our efforts we’ll have a better chance of success.  Oh, yes, you should know the Hanover Rd. Bridge has been closed for about a year now with no viable solution in sight…yet!

When the Cornell Rd. bridge was initially found failing, all avenues of repair were examined and rejected as insufficient; once steel rusts to that degree, it won’t take a repair.  It would be like using duct tape to repair a broken axle.  Besides, the structural steel would just continue to rust away under the repair.  

Compounding the problem is the issue of funding.  Bridges are expensive little boogers and the Cornell Rd. Bridge would cost somewhere between $800,000.00 and $1,000,000.00 to replace.  Obviously, noone involved has that kind of money laying around.  Couple that with the fact that the traffic count on Cornell Rd. Is, on a really good day, about 200 vehicles.  It’s not that those 200 people aren’t important, there is no question they are; remember my wife is one of them!  But funding of that magnitude will always go to benefit the greatest number of people.  

Nevertheless, Chris told me that JCDOT has, is and will continue to seek out solutions, funding from any source possible, apply for any grants available and will do their best to get that bridge reopened.  To that effect, we discussed erecting a wooden plank bridge as a possible solution that would get us ‘back on the road’ so to speak, very quickly.  Apparently, for short spans like Cornell Rd., wooden bridges have proven to be well adapted, quickly installed and reasonably priced solutions.  He assured me that JCDOT is investing time and effort in acquiring the finding needed to make that a reality.  I applaud that and enthusiastically support that effort.

As a possible remedial effort to get traffic flowing at least one lane at the time – I suggested looking for an AVLB or ‘armored vehicle launched bridge’ I had some experience with while I was in the military.  They can be purchased for less than $200,000.00 and would be an excellent emergency measure for situations just like this.  Chris embraced the idea and told me he had looked at that possibility some years ago in partnership with another County, however they couldn’t find one at that time.  So, all we need to do now is find one for sale and we can get to work on that, too!

In conclusion: Nobody likes the situation we are in, you don’t, I don’t, no one who has to drive these roads does.  But it is just one of those things we are going to have to resolve to deal with calmly, civilly and to the best of our abilities until we get it resolved.  Trust me, I know it’s a pain and an added frustration.  And I understand.  So if you feel you need to vent, blow off a bit of steam, release some pressure, give me a call, write me an email or come and see me.  I can take it.  Just keep in mind I don’t care for name calling and accusations.

Be Well, All


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