WALLINGFORD — A local “orphan” bridge has taken many hard knocks in its life from large vehicles that can’t handle the tight turn.
The town has spent around $12,000 this fiscal year repairing the John Street bridge, which spans the railroad tracks between South Colony Road and Dudley Avenue.
Town Engineer Rob Baltramaitis said the town is responsible for repairing fencing and guardrails, which are repeatedly hit by large commercial trucks and tractor-trailers.
The bridge is 54 feet long and about 27 feet curb to curb, with a 3.5-foot wide sidewalk on the north side of John Street.
“The resulting damage isn’t to the foundation,” he said during a Town Council budget hearing on his department Thursday. “It isn’t to the deck. It’s the surface features we have to maintain.”
The bridge, built in 1964, is an orphan bridge, meaning the ownership of the structure is unknown. The town, state and Amtrak are each responsible for different components.
The town is responsible for non-structural portions, including the road, curbs, sidewalks, guardrails and fencing.
The state Department of Transportation rated the bridge’s condition as fair in a bridge inspection report from 2014, the most recent report Baltramaitis has in his files.
Kevin Nursick, DOT spokesman, said Friday that although the bridge has a low rating, it’s not dangerous to motorists.
“It does not mean it’s unsafe or anybody’s at risk,” he said. “We don’t take chances with bridges.”
Baltramaitis said the narrow geometry of bridge and intersection contributes to the incidents of motor vehicle damage.
He said that industrial use in the area intensified after the bridge was built.
John Street itself ends at the town’s public utility offices and wastewater treatment plant, but also can be used to access South Cherry Street, which leads to driveways for BYK, Allnex, U-Haul and other warehouses.
Baltramaitis said the immediate issue the town faces is that “damage to the guardrails and fences occurs so frequently, yet very rarely do we have any accident report that identifies who did the damage.”
Repair costs are up to the town if no driver is identified.
Another issue is the bridge’s condition, which is “fair at best,” he said, “given that it is the primary access to a heavily utilized industrial area.”
He said the town wants to be proactive in the eventual reconstruction of the bridge.