The Bayonet

Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014

Custer Road Bridge set to reopen no later than Aug. 31

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After more than six months, members of the Fort Benning community should be able to use Custer Road Bridge by the end of this month.

Directorate of Public Works officials said the target date for the reopening is Aug. 31.

"It should be open by the end of this month barring any unforeseen periods of bad weather," said Rick Clapp, chief of DPW's Engineering Division. "August is usually a pretty good construction month. We've had some rain recently, but the contractor has been able to work around that."

The bridge was closed in mid-February after it was struck by a backhoe with an unsecured arm.

The collision caused extensive damage to the bridge beams, necessitating the closure.

"Any damage to the beams is very concerning to us," Clapp said. "We had an investigation into the state of those beams after they were hit and they were all damaged to some degree. The second beam was actually the worst. Part of it was missing, and there were cracks where you could see the rebar inside. ... When we examined the others, they also needed replacing."

In addition to the repairs, the height of the bridge was also raised a foot. Clapp said when the bridge was built in 1974, interstate standards called for a minimum clearance of 15 feet, which was the bridge's previous height.

However, modern standards now call for a height of 16 feet. So, when the bridge was closed for repairs, Clapp said, the decision was made to move forward with the raising of the bridge rather than separating the two projects and causing two separate closures.

"By being able to work very quickly on the contracting front and getting the same company the insurance carrier had doing the repairs to raise the bridge, we shaved two to three months off the total time it was going to take to both repair the bridge and raise it to current standards," Clapp said.

"We avoided having two shutdown periods for the bridge."

The repairs cost about $750,000, which was paid by the insurance carrier for the contractor who owned the backhoe.

The bridge raising cost about $880,000, paid for by Fort Benning.

Clapp said he understands the frustration over the bridge's long closure, which has led to numerous detours for on-post drivers who use the bridge, which he said averages 4,500 passes per day.

"Six and a half months is really a short period," he said. "I know it seems long if you're having to deal with the daily effects of this outage, but this is a project that could have taken a year or more in some cases. We've at least saved a couple of months and avoided having two outages. ... We certainly understand the inconvenience that having this bridge closed is causing for all the residents and workers on Fort Benning who use it. We've done our very best to minimize the time of outage for the bridge, and I think we've done a good job of that."

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