Bridge safety appraisal due soon
Questions about safety standards for New Milford's roughly 56 municipal bridges are being addressed by Dewberry Engineers of New Haven.
George Jacobs, the head public engineer in the national infrastructure firm's New Haven office, said last week his company has been providing "pro bono" bridge inspections for its "preferred clients."
The town of New Milford is one of those clients, Mr. Jacobs added.
Inspections started in New Milford in fall 2010 to do a "quick assessment and figure out if anything major exists that has been overlook over the last few years," he said.
Municipalities throughout the state have had bridge inspections take a back seat since the late 1990s due to a cutback in state funding toward inspections, Mr. Jacobs said.
"We're looking not only at the supporting structure of bridges but also abutments, approaches and exits from bridges," he explained, "and waterways up to bridges and culverts."
Fallen trees and brush can often have washed against the pipes and culverts of old bridges.
The report from Dewberry is expected to be completed within the next two to three weeks, itemizing the list of bridges that need maintenance or related care Public Works could do and those requiring work that may require contacts.
"The town can get better prices for, say, guard rails, if it buys for five or six bridges at a time," Mr. Jacobs explained. "It helps the town's infrastructure cost planning to have this study done."
The Dewberry report will also categorize the list of work needed to be done by immediate need; need that can be programed over the next three to five years; and can be programed out 10 years or longer.
Jeff Winter, the Democratic mayoral candidate, recently questioned the public safety of New Milford's bridges. He called into question Republican Mayor Pat Murphy's record of bridge repairs during her eight-year administration.
"May 19, I went to Public Works to look at bridge inspection files and it stunned me to see all bridges under 20 feet had not been inspected since 2002," Mr. Winter said recently.
A review of Public Works records by The Spectrum this week also revealed more than $500,000 in work done on at least six bridges since 2007, including Mill Street's deck and three Larson Road culverts.
"We separated out a bridge maintenance fund in our budget three or four years ago," Mr. Zarba said, "to assure dedicated funds for bridge maintenance existed."
"Sure, I'd like to have more money to spend on bridge maintenance," said Mayor Murphy. "We take our resources and put safety first. We've never neglected to respond to findings of our consultants regarding bridge maintenance."