Many Smaller Bridges Rated "Intolerable" - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

08/07/07-Tyler

Many Smaller Bridges Rated "Intolerable"

Last week we told you TxDOT told KLTV 7 that you didn't need to know where the deficient bridges are.  So we continued to look for information from other sources.  We found data given to the U.S. Department of Transportation called the National Bridge Inventory.

Every bridge in the nation is given a rating.  And we found many of the bridges most in trouble are the smallest ones around.  

In nearly every East Texas county, our continuing investigation found bridges with the lowest designation by the federal government, called "intolerable."  There are 89 bridges. The only counties without an "intolerable" bridge are Upshur and Camp counties.

Many of those bridges are older and made of wooden piers and beams, much like bridges were in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 

Smith County Roads 132 and 137 both cross Henshaw Creek near Flint.  Both are called "intolerable" on the Department of Transportation's National Bridge Inventory. 

Smith County Engineer Bill Bala agrees both need to be replaced.

"Different kinds of trucks run over them with multiple axles, and start to loosen all of the nails and loosen the boards," he says.

One on County Road 137 near Flint is next to be rebuilt.   It's one of only three bridges Smith County Road and Bridge has money to rebuild this year. 

Bala insists all bridges are safe, so long as trucks mind the maximum load limits.

"They are going into a factor of safety that may or may not be there, so when they go over it, they may be permanently damaging the bridge,"  he says.

That does sometimes happen, so Bala says his crews check bridges regularly.

Driver Jason Blakeley says he sees that many county road bridges look worse off than they used to.

"They look a little rickety. I think the understructure -- you have the old wood beams -- you can tell they're getting old," he says.

Some bridges date from the early 20th century and have been shored up over and over. In Smith County, the refit of the worst bridges will take the next three years.  

In Gregg County, only one bridge-- Swanson Street on the north side of Kilgore has the intolerable rating. It's on an oil service road.

You can access the NBI database at the top of this page, as well as a searchable database from Nationalbridges.com, which has sorted the government's database information.

Smith County's Bill Bala says that citizens should remember that recent rebuilds and renovations may not be included in that data, and that if drivers have questions about a particular bridge, they should call their local county engineering or road and bridge officer for the most up-to-date information.

Morgan Palmer, Reporting morganpalmer@kltv.com

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