Repairing Bridges Damaged By Irene Pose Challenges

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(Host) One of the biggest challenges facing state transportation officials is repairing the dozens of state bridges that have been severely damaged by Hurricane Irene.

And as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, two bridges in the Mad River Valley pose very different challenges to transportation crews.

(Kinzel) One of the first things you notice traveling to Moretown, is the large number of construction trucks coming in and out of town.

Just south of town on Route 100 B, the rising waters of the Mad River swept over a bridge and dug a new channel through the road leading up to the bridge. It left a gaping hole that’s more than 30 feet wide.

Mike Wilder is the regional chief of Maintenance for the Agency of Transportation.

(Wilder) "I’ve been here 27 years and I haven’t seen water at this point I mean I’ve seen it up pretty high here but not do this much destruction."

(Kinzel) Wilder has crews pouring fill into the hole and then they slowly grade it. His goal is to have the bridge open by the end of the weekend:

(Wilder) "It’ll stay dirt for a couple of weeks until we can get a paved contractor in and definitely we’re going to pave it when we get around but we’ll just get it dirt so we can get people out of town because right now the only ways around are the back roads."

(Kinzel) And Wilder says crews are working well into the night to fix the bridges in his region:

(Wilder) "We’re right out straight we’ve hired contractors and we’re putting our own people to work like I got 3 jobs going right now all at the same time we’re trying to get everything going this is just out of my garage right here in Middlesex – Waitsfield we’ve got three contractors working for us trying to get things back together."

(Kinzel) Just north of Moretown another bridge is out of commission.  In this case, the approach slab to the bridge was totally destroyed leaving an enormous hole. Workers are using heavy duty steel saws to cut through construction pipes.

The good news is that’s there a small side road that can accommodate local and emergency vehicles. The bad news according to AOT Construction manager Bob Suckert is that it will take several weeks to fix this bridge.

(Suckert) "We’re filling this void in and when we get back up to grade we’ll pour a new approach slab and then when that’s got the strength we’ll pave it and we’ll have it back open again."

(Kinzel) Suckert says the Agency faces enormous challenges in the days and weeks ahead but he’s convinced the work can be done.

(Suckert) "There’s a lot of work to be done but we’ve got everybody working as fast as we can …they worked through part of the night last night so they’re working as fast as they can to get it open."

(Kinzel) Transportation officials are also working on a number of other important road and bridge projects in the Mad River Valley.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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