New Jersey cracks down on upkeep of bridges

Bridge owners have a month to ensure span safety

News The Star-Ledger August 30, 2007
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The Department of Transportation has informed every New Jersey agency, authority or company that owns a bridge that it has 30 days to make sure the spans comply with national standards—and that action will be taken if they don’t.

The directive was issued Friday, Aug. 17, by the state's chief engineer, Brian Strizki.

Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri said the directive was not issued in response to concerns about the safety of specific bridges, but rather as a safeguard at a time of heightened apprehension brought on by the collapse of the bridge on I-35 in Minnesota.

"We have no reason to doubt that they are not up-to-date," Kolluri said of the New Jersey spans outside the DOT's jurisdiction. "We just need to make sure that any actions that need to be taken are being taken."

The National Bridge Inspection Standards require that every bridge over 20 ft long be inspected at least once every two years. If problems develop between inspections, it is up to the bridge owners to take action to protect public safety, Kolluri said. Those actions could include making repairs, limiting the weight of vehicles allowed to use the bridge or closing the bridge to traffic.

There are 6,434 bridges in New Jersey over 20 ft long. The DOT is responsible for 2,576 of them. Individual counties are responsible for 2,549. The rest are owned and maintained by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and other toll authorities (1,164), NJ Transit (107), bistate bridge agencies (24) and private companies (14).

After the Minneapolis bridge collapse, Gov. Jon Corzine ordered the DOT to present a report to him on the condition of New Jersey's bridges. The interim report—given to him Aug. 9—included information from the state's bridge database. The information that the counties and other bridge owners submit in response to Strizki's edict will be used to update the database.

"We have the information now and we want to make sure we have the most up-to-date information," Kolluri said.

The DOT is due to make a final report to the governor next month that will include a capital investment strategy for the state's bridges. The DOT says 66 percent of the bridges in New Jersey are in good condition, 23 percent are functionally obsolete and 11 percent are structurally deficient.

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