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MERIDEN — The state Department of Transportation said Tuesday it considers a bridge over Interstate 91 to be safe despite brick-sized pieces of concrete falling from it a day earlier causing damage to 16 vehicles.
State police responded to numerous reports of debris covering all three lanes of the southbound side of the highway close to 5 p.m., Monday, according to an incident report filed by State Trooper Robert Mangham. The report indicated that the debris came from the underside of the Murdock Avenue bridge above I-91 and the pieces were “brick size.”
“A total of 16 people reported that their vehicles were damaged as a result of the striking, or being struck by, debris,” the report stated, not indicating any injuries. “Most of the vehicles had damaged tires.”
The DOT was notified shortly after the incident was reported, said Judd Everhart, communications director for the DOT. Everhart said the bridge has been deemed safe and confirmed the fallen material came from the underside of the bridge. Seventy feet of haunching under the bridge was removed to prevent any more from falling, he added.
“It is purely aesthetic and not related to the “structural integrity” of the bridge,” Everhart said.
Among those driving as the material fell Monday was Mindy Marrone, a Wallingford resident and wife of Board of Education member Joe Marrone.
“It came hurdling toward my windshield,” Mindy Marrone said, comparing the debris to the size of a small grapefruit. “It was pretty scary.”
Driving home during rush hour traffic, Marrone said she did not see any debris actually falling, but said she noticed some in the roadway after her vehicle was struck.
“You don’t expect pieces of infrastructure to be falling down onto your vehicle...You assume all of the infrastructure is sound,” she said.
The piece that struck Mindy Marrone’s vehicle had initially hit the vehicle in front of her, before smashing her windshield, causing pieces of glass to fall into her car. There were also small dents in the roof, she said.
“It was just one of those things where it’s shocking; you don’t expect it,” she said. “Thank God nobody was hurt or I didn’t have my kids in the car with pieces of glass flying.”
Joe Marrone had been driving in the same area shortly after the incident and said he counted close to 20 vehicles pulled to the side of the road after the debris fell. He noticed some people had damaged headlights.
According to a database kept by Transportation for America, the bridge was built in 1965 and was in “good” condition when it was last inspected in 2012. State bridges are typically inspected once every two years. The DOT had given the deck of the bridge a rating of 5, a structure level of 5 and substructure level of 6. All ratings are on a scale of 1 to 10. If bridges are given a 4 or lower they are considered “structurally deficient.” Transportation for America is an advocacy group aiming to improve the transportation system and to ensure safety.
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