New York State Exposed: "Structurally Deficient"

Updated: 05/07/2014 5:17 PM
Created: 05/07/2014 4:49 PM WHEC.com
By: Brett Davidsen

Tens of thousands of people use the bridge over the Erie Canal on Chili Avenue to get from the city to Gates each day. That bridge is still closed to traffic Wednesday.

The New York State Department of Transportation shut it down until further notice after crews noticed advanced steel deterioration during a routine painting job. News10NBC wanted to know what took so long for this issue to be noticed and if drivers were in danger. 

The old bridge was built during World War II. Every day, 16,000 cars and trucks pass over the bridge. It is now closed for repairs after serious damage was discovered by a painting contractor Tuesday. 

Lori Maher, DOT, said, "Physically, the condition is bad enough that we're moving right into making repairs. We've already mobilized an emergency contractor."

The state says the problem is in the lower chord, a critical part of the bridge. It is a horizontal steel beam that you can only see from below the structure. 

Maher said, "It's more of a section loss. So that means the steel got very thin and there's actually holes and you can see some daylight actually."

The state says this bridge was on an every two year inspection cycle. 

News10NBC wanted to know more about the bridge’s history. The most recent state records show the bridge was built in 1940. It was last inspected in November 2012. The bridge was given a 4.31 rating at that time. Anything under five is considered “structurally deficient.” The DOT says that label doesn't mean a bridge is unsafe, only that it needs significant maintenance. News10NBC asked for the full 2012 inspection report, but we were told to file a Freedom of Information request.

Brett Davidsen asked, “A bridge that old, should it be inspected more frequently than every two years?”

Maher said, "We have bridges that are older than this one. So that doesn't really determine it. It's more the condition."

The same bridge was closed for a month last summer for steel repairs in a separate section of the bridge. The DOT says this latest deterioration was not evident at that time. 

This bridge is the latest example of an aging infrastructure. According to National Transportation Research study released in February, 25% of bridges in the Rochester area are in need of rehabilitation, reconstruction, or replacement.


DOT says they don’t believe the Chili Avenue Bridge needs to be replaced, only repairs. Right now, they are talking about weeks or a month 

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