Dozens of local bridges deficient, state says

Dozens of bridges in Fulton and Montgomery counties are deemed “structurally deficient” by the state Department of Transportation.

According to DOT data from July 2013, 15 of Fulton County’s 97 bridges – or roughly 15 percent – are deemed structurally deficient.

In Montgomery County, 24 of its 203 bridges, or about 11 percent, are classified by DOT as structurally deficient, the data show.

Local officials, however, say there’s no need for immediate alarm. They also say localities are continuing to repair their bridges.

A “structurally deficient” bridge, when left open to traffic, typically requires significant maintenance and repair to remain in service and eventual repair or replacement to address deficiencies, DOT says. In order to remain in service, structurally deficient bridges are often posted with weight limits.

DOT’s rating below 5.0 is considered a deficient bridge. A 0 rating is the worst; a 7 rating is the best. A deficient-condition rating indicates deterioration is at a level that requires repair to restore the bridge to its fully functional, non-deficient condition. DOT says it does not mean the bridge is unsafe.

Fulton County’s top five structurally deficient bridges are: the 1914 Hill Street Bridge in Gloversville – 3.55 rating; 1920 Tannery Road Bridge in the town of Bleecker – 3.69 rating; 1926 North Chase Street Bridge in city of Johnstown – 3.69 rating; 1933 Route 10A Bridge in the town of Johnstown – 3.72 rating; and the 1939 Irish Settlement

Road Bridge in the town of Stratford – 4.06 rating.

Gloversville officials are working to repair the Hill Street Bridge.

Fulton County’s structurally deficient bridges range from a 3.55 rating to 7 rating.

Montgomery County’s top five structurally deficient bridges are: 1953 Incinerator Road Bridge in the village of Canajoharie – 3.05 rating; 1953 Amsterdam Interchange Bridge in the city of Amsterdam – 3.42 rating; 1889 H. Moyer Road Bridge in the town of Minden – 3.47 rating; 1912 Prospect Street Bridge in the city Amsterdam – 3.54 rating; and the 1900 Main Street Bridge in the city of Amsterdam – 3.92 rating.

Montgomery County’s structurally deficient bridges range from a 3.05 rating to a 6.92 rating.

Fulton County Superintendent of Highways and Facilities Mark Yost said the ownership and responsibility of Fulton County’s bridges are generally a “mix” between bridges on town roads the county owns and the bridges in the cities. He said the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown own their own bridges.

Yost, who has served in his position for seven years, says the number of deficient bridges in Fulton County isn’t any higher than it used to be. In fact, he said, the number may be going down.

He said many of the bridges are too narrow and have no shoulders.

Every spring, Yost said he and his staff go over the 38 bridges the county is responsible for to see what future work will be needed and what can be afforded. He doesn’t see any major problems at this time.

“There’s nothing that comes up to the top right now,” Yost said.

He noted the “worst” bridges in the county in recent years have been the Hill Street Bridge, which is scheduled for repair, and the North Perry Street Bridge in the city of Johnstown. In a 2012-13 project, the city of Johnstown and the state funded a $2.4 million replacement of the North Perry Street Bridge. In 2008, DOT red-flagged what had become a deteriorating stone-arch structure.

Among the structurally deficient bridges in Fulton County are: Johnstown’s 1930s-era Miller Street Bridge, which has a 4.18 rating and is closed; the 1920 Mussey Road Bridge in the town of Caroga, with a 4.29 rating; and the North Bush Road in Caroga, with a 4.42 rating.

Johnstown City Engineer Chandra Cotter said although two of her city’s bridges are deemed structurally deficient – the North Chase Street Bridge and Miller Street Bridge – there is no immediate safety concern. With the closed Miller Street Bridge, for example, she said there is little traffic through that area.

“They’re actually not really a priority,” Cotter said.

She said the Townsend Avenue Bridge is more of a priority. That 1928 bridge has a 4.59 rating and has more traffic.

Cotter said she has asked the Johnstown Common Council what to do about the North Chase Street and Miller Street bridges but hasn’t received a definite answer. She estimated each bridge may cost about $300,000 to repair.

Among the other structurally deficient bridges in Montgomery County are: 1936 Fort Hunter Road Bridge in the town of Florida, with a 3.97 rating; 1950 Crescent Avenue Bridge in the city of Amsterdam, with a 4.26 rating; and the 1962 Route 5 Bridge in the village of Fort Johnson, which has been flooded in the past and has a 4.28 rating.

Montgomery County has 92 county-owned bridges. County government has had an aggressive plan in attacking its bridge erosion problem over the last dozen years, said county Public Works Director Paul Clayburn.

He said although the percentage of deficient bridges in the county may be about 11 percent now, the percentage of county-owned bridges that are deficient is in the high 30 percentile.

But Clayburn said about 70 percent of the county-owned bridges were deemed deficient in 1999 and 2000. He said the county replaced its bridges over the years and reduced that deficiency rate by 40 percent.

“I developed a bridge replacement program 10 years ago,” Clayburn said. “We replaced about 30 bridges. We were very far behind.”

Clayburn said he now is working on a capital projects plan for the county. He said he is finding bridges that need repair are located “all over the place” in Montgomery County. He said flooding has been a factor in bridges being eroded in his county.

According to DOT, New York state has more than 17,000 highway bridges, about 44 percent of them owned by DOT. Roughly 50 percent of the bridges are owned by municipalities and the rest by state and local authorities.

DOT is responsible for making sure all the highway bridges in the state are inspected following state and federal mandates. DOT inspects its own highway bridges, as well as highway bridges owned by localities, railroads and commissions that do not collect tolls, ultimately inspecting about 94 percent of the highway bridges in the state.

The state requires all highway bridges to be inspected at least every two years.

Michael Anich can be reached at