Drivers in Oceanside, Island Park and across the country are driving over structurally deficient bridges — nearly 56,000 in total, according to a report released last month by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
The report found about 2,000 deficient bridges in New York alone — about 11 percent of the state’s total. Two are in Oceanside, including the bridge over Barnum’s Channel on Long Beach Road, which allows drivers access to Island Park, and the Pearl Street bridge, which connects the hamlet to East Rockaway.
Structurally deficient is a term used by the National Bridges Inventory Database to describe a bridge that has one or more structural defects that require attention.
“America’s highway network is woefully underperforming,” ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who conducted the analysis, said in the Feb. 15 report. “It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization. State and local transportation departments haven’t been provided the resources to keep pace with the nation’s bridge needs.”
The substructure — the foundation, including abutments and piers — of the two Oceanside bridges were found to be in poor condition. However, both meet the “minimum tolerable limits to be left in place as is,” according to the National Bridges Inventory Database.
The superstructures — normally defined as steel beams or a concrete frame — of the Pearl Street and Long Beach Road bridges were deemed in very good and satisfactory condition, respectively. The database showed no issues with the actual bridge deck of the Pearl Street bridge, while the other was listed as being in fair condition.
The bridge over Barnum’s Channel was built in 1925 and reconstructed in 1988, according to the database. It was inspected six years ago and found to have structural problems, Mary Studdert, Nassau County Department of Public Works spokeswoman, told the Herald in November. The county then instituted a reduced-load limit for vehicles of 20 tons as a temporary safety measure.
Construction to completely rebuild the northbound and southbound spans of the bridge began on Dec. 2. The project’s cost is about $8.32 million, with $5.92 million to be reimbursed by the federal government. As expected, the southbound side is being rebuilt first, as traffic has been diverted to a portion of the other span. The bridge, Studdert said last week, is expected to be complete by April 2018.
“It is a great concern, because it is basically one of the three accesses into the barrier island and of course the direct access into Island Park,” said County Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach). “This was something that we needed to do.”
Ford added that work by National Grid on the bridge in recent weeks caused southbound lane closures and increased traffic, which she has addressed with the company. She added that the county would look to minimize congestion on the bridge during the summer. Other bridges in the area, like the Atlantic Beach Bridge, could see repairs in the future, Ford said, but for now, Pearl Street is next to be fixed.
A bid to work on the Pearl Street bridge opened in February 2016, according to Studdert, and has been awarded to Queens-based Thomas Novelli Contracting. The county is in the process of reviewing submittals, and has not received a construction schedule from the contractor yet, she added. That project to strengthen the bridge — built in 1932 and reconstructed in 1986 — is expected to cost nearly $1.36 million.
Studdert said that according to the county’s reports, there is currently no load restriction on the Pearl Street bridge, as beginning stages of the planned construction are still developing.
“We’re addressing these issues,” Ford said, “in a fashion so as to minimize the impact on the residents and the motorists.”