Kane In Your Corner: 'State of Disrepair'

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Hundreds of bridges across Connecticut are structurally deficient and in urgent need of repair or replacement, but is enough being done? A Kane In Your Corner investigation finds it took years of neglect to get to this "State of Disrepair."

Connecticut ranks 25th in the country in bridge maintenance, which is better than New York, New Jersey or Massachusetts. But one in 12 bridges across the state are in a state of disrepair, and some have been that way for almost 30 years.

Each day, almost 27,000 people travel over the Boston Avenue bridge in Bridgeport, and you don't have to be a professional engineer to see the problems there. Last fall, inspectors rated the bridge in poor condition, noting, "The southbound sidewalk has been closed due to severe section loss…due to safety concerns, the cantilevered beams can no longer be inspected hands-on."

The Boston Avenue bridge isn't the only Connecticut bridge in bad shape. News 12 checked the National Bridge Inventory and found that more than 300 bridges statewide are structurally deficient. The Mill River Bridge in Stamford is "scour critical," meaning the foundation is unstable. Inspectors found "voids…up to 38 inches deep." The state recently announced a rehabilitation project, but construction isn't set to start until 2020.

Kevin Nursick, of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, says the federal data is misleading.

"It is normal in a bridge's lifespan to reach a stage which we call structurally deficient," he says. "A bridge that is structurally deficient is not putting the public at risk in any way, shape or form."

However, one of America's leading infrastructure experts isn't so sure.

"We have a zillion problems with our debilitated infrastructure, and the bridges are not any different," says professor Emin Aktan, of Drexel University.

Connecticut residents know about the dangers of bridge collapses all too well. In 1983, the Mianus River bridge failed, killing three people. But Nursick says the state now spends $300 million a year on bridge projects and starts working on bridges as soon as they become deficient.

"All of our structurally deficient bridges…are in the program right now," Nursick says. "Every one of the structurally deficient bridges are either in design or underway."

If that's true, then some have been in the program a long time. The aforementioned Stamford bridge has been deficient since 1996. The one in Bridgeport has been deficient even longer -- it's been rated in poor condition in every inspection since 1991.

The DOT is just now beginning a rehab project, but bids don't go out until next year. Some drivers who spoke with News 12 said that's not soon enough.

The Connecticut DOT does better at maintaining bridges than local towns. About 6 percent of state-maintained bridges are deficient, compared with 13 percent of municipal bridges.

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