pacomartin
pacomartin
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October 22nd, 2011 at 4:17:23 PM permalink
I know this is a funny question to ask on this forum, but I am getting lousy answers elsewhere.

I have a small single lane beam bridge, where a concrete pad is held up by 5 steel I-beams (as in the photo). The span is 36 feet, and it is about 12 feet wide (1 car width).


Traffic consists of a single car at a time (no trucks), moving at slow speed. The height is about 15'-18'. It fords a stream which can become very fast after severe rain. After a severe storm every few years, the water comes as high as the bridge.

The problem is that the I-beams were not treated properly, and they are completely rusting away. The bridge has not collapsed probably because it is so overbuilt with 5 beams. The age is roughly 80 years.

Because of a legal oversight fifty years ago, ownership of the bridge was not turned over to the township. They will not repair the bridge as they consider it private property. It is intact, and used roughly 50 times a day, but trucks were rerouted.

The abutments are intact, so I am thinking of laying something like this "truck ramp" on top of the bridge. Unfortunately it is 6.5' so it is a little narrow. I don't have much of a grade on the bridge.


A lot of websites lead you to telephone poles or old railroad flatcars (which can be purchased for about $1000. But a railroad flat car is too long and will require extensive grading. Since the current bridge is not collapsed, it seems as if I can build on top of it, as long as the final addition is strong enough to hold the load if the I beams completely rust through.
AZDuffman
AZDuffman
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October 22nd, 2011 at 9:50:02 PM permalink
Quote: pacomartin

Because of a legal oversight fifty years ago, ownership of the bridge was not turned over to the township. They will not repair the bridge as they consider it private property. It is intact, and used roughly 50 times a day, but trucks were rerouted.



How was the road on either end of the bridge turned over to the town? I see it happening two or three ways in my research. Either the town gets the road as a right-of-way or takes it emminent domain or it is conveyed in "fee simple" to the town. If the town got the road you should be able to look at the deeds of conveyance and find something there.

If not, how much complaint if the bridge were closed? I mean, tell the town if they don't own it you do, and you must sadly close it since you can not afford repairs. With the road on both sides then useless the town may get some complaints and get moving.
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pacomartin
pacomartin
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October 23rd, 2011 at 12:04:22 AM permalink
Quote: AZDuffman

How was the road on either end of the bridge turned over to the town? I see it happening two or three ways in my research. Either the town gets the road as a right-of-way or takes it emminent domain or it is conveyed in "fee simple" to the town. If the town got the road you should be able to look at the deeds of conveyance and find something there.

If not, how much complaint if the bridge were closed? I mean, tell the town if they don't own it you do, and you must sadly close it since you can not afford repairs. With the road on both sides then useless the town may get some complaints and get moving.



The township has a three mile boundary as a creek. On the opposite side of the creek is another municipality. Since the 19th century there have been 4 bridges over the creek. The man who bought the 14 acre property in 1930 (when the population was about 500) decided that the access to his property was poor because it frequently flooded. He built a 5th bridge across the creek to his property. The former road to the property has long since vanished (it's not even a dirt road anymore).

In the 1950's he subdivided the property into 13 lots. The land along the creek became some kind of public wetlands. Houses were built on the lots, and it was believed that the township had assumed the ownership for the street and bridge at that time.

When Hurricane Ivan hit in September of 2004 the flooding was enough to submerge the bridge. At the request of the homeowners, the township engineer inspected the bridge. While the hurricane had not done any specific damage, it was discovered that some of the bridge I beams were corroded nearly through. The engineer declared it unsafe for trucks, and the township paved a former dirt fire road for access by their vehicles (fire trucks, garbage trucks, and police vehicles). They also ordered delivery trucks, maintenance vehicles, etc. to use the newly paved fire road.

However, they specifically forbade the private vehicles of the owners of the 13 homes from using the newly paved fire road (subject to ticketing and eventual loss of driving rights for repeat offenders), and the solicitor sent a letter that said the homeowners had the responsibility to bring the bridge into a "good condition and state of repair". I am not sure what that means. If it means a personal standard of repair, or one that meets the standard of a highway administration.

For 7 years, the 13 homeowners and their guests have simply been using the bridge. If the bridge washes away in a storm, then they will use the fire road and risk tickets as there is no other alternative. However, there is a chance that the bridge will fail when a car is on, possibly resulting in the loss of life (especially if it fails in a storm).

A private lawyer hired by the lawyer has stated that it is his opinion that the township solicitor has a legal obligation to repair the bridge.

One of my high school classmates was sucked into an open culvert and drowned when her car stalled in a flash flood (a few miles away). It was a known hazard, but because it was on a municipal boundary the solicitors could not agree on who was responsible for the required modifications. It took 11 years after she drowned until it was fixed. Her mother would sit there when it rained for a while, to make sure nobody else drowned by accident.

The stream in question is a 4th order stream (it is fed by at least 8 first order streams), over 20 miles long, with a 31,000 acre watershed. In the region cold water springs feed it, and the bed is limestone. All that means that it is normally placid, but turns into a raging torrent frequently when it rains heavily.

Here is a news photo of the creek flooding during Hurricane Irene (3 miles downstream from the bridge in question).
Last edited by: unnamed administrator on Oct 4, 2016
Doc
Doc
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October 23rd, 2011 at 7:23:28 AM permalink
Quote: pacomartin

... They also ordered delivery trucks, maintenance vehicles, etc. to use the newly paved fire road.
...
However, they specifically forbade the private vehicles of the owners of the 13 homes from using the newly paved fire road.


Order some of the private vehicles to use the road and forbid others. That sounds like something for a lawyer to jump on. Perhaps all of the residents should hang "Delivery Vehicle" signs on their cars. But then, I'm not a lawyer.

I'm also not qualified in bridge design, but I would be leery of any of the short-cut improvements that I think you are suggesting. Who would wind up liable if your improvised solution were to fail?
AZDuffman
AZDuffman
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October 24th, 2011 at 3:12:39 PM permalink
Quote: pacomartin

In the 1950's he subdivided the property into 13 lots. The land along the creek became some kind of public wetlands. Houses were built on the lots, and it was believed that the township had assumed the ownership for the street and bridge at that time.

When Hurricane Ivan hit in September of 2004 the flooding was enough to submerge the bridge. At the request of the homeowners, the township engineer inspected the bridge. While the hurricane had not done any specific damage, it was discovered that some of the bridge I beams were corroded nearly through. The engineer declared it unsafe for trucks, and the township paved a former dirt fire road for access by their vehicles (fire trucks, garbage trucks, and police vehicles). They also ordered delivery trucks, maintenance vehicles, etc. to use the newly paved fire road.

However, they specifically forbade the private vehicles of the owners of the 13 homes from using the newly paved fire road (subject to ticketing and eventual loss of driving rights for repeat offenders), and the solicitor sent a letter that said the homeowners had the responsibility to bring the bridge into a "good condition and state of repair". I am not sure what that means. If it means a personal standard of repair, or one that meets the standard of a highway administration.



I see conflicting issues here. I'm no lawyer but I do read and interpert titles and legal descriptions as most here know. So here are my issues.

First, I know of nothing that requires a township to take control of a road. In fact, in a good deal of cases they just build the road and the homeowners "own" half of the road though in reality it is a public road. (I stated here month's ago I would wager that the casinos "own" the strip and sidewalk. Caesars may own part of the strip by virtue of owning Caesars Palace and Flamingo and their lots actually "meeting" in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd.) For the 13 homes the town may see it as no different than a large apartment complex with their own internal road system.

However, to condem the bridge while at the same time banning use of the fire road IS a problem. Seems a case of "taking" with no compensation. Going back years the homeowners should have given the road to the township and then the township would have had to keep it in shape. To do this now the town will see the bill and probably say "no way, fix it yourself." I'd say someone needs to sit down with the town council and grant the road to the town in exchange for use of the fire road.

Alternatively you could maybe form as an HOA.
All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others
Face
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Face
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October 24th, 2011 at 3:33:37 PM permalink
This makes no sense to me. A place is accessed by only this bridge or a fire road. The bridge is bunk, and the fire road is "no access". And you (you or neighbors) "own" the bridge? What if it collapses, are you guys stranded or, more likely, faced with a long ridiculous detour?

I for one would not attempt self repair. That creek and your description seems like so many that I grew up with. An ankle deep trickle from May to Oct, and a town drowning torrent at random times from Nov to Apr. I'm sure things could be done to bandaid it (piling cut telephone poles/railroad ties in as support) but without heavy equipment and knowledge of exactly how to do it, it's probably get blown away come the next flood, or cause pressure in an area not seen before and blow the whole thing out. Ditto for the "truck ramp" thingy. You might could use it if and when the bridge fails as a last resort, but that'll wash right away in a flood too. Not to mention any personal responsibility that might subject you to.

I think AZ probably has the best course of action. Unless you want to foot a several hundred thousand dollar bill, you got to get the town involved. Might even take lawyers or a plea to the State. It sure beats my idea, which involved a fire orange Charger with "01" painted on the side....
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Ayecarumba
Ayecarumba
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October 24th, 2011 at 4:50:37 PM permalink
Have you approached any private firms about an appraisal for a retrofit / repair? Since the abutments are solid, and the bridge has been functional for many years already, I don't think the design needs major overhaul. The cost of swapping out the I-beams and laying a new surface may not be out of reach for the homeowners. Perhaps you can charge a toll to recoup the cost.

Has anyone looked into the availability of federal "stimulus" funds to soften the blow to local pockets, and provide some juice to the local economy? It's not the Boulder Dam, but it could be paid for like it was.
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