Suffolk to spend $1.6M for bridge repairs

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Suffolk County will spend an additional $1.6 million in coming weeks after it learned that emergency repairs are needed on four bridges, officials said Friday.

Lawmakers from both parties joined County Executive Steve Bellone at a news conference near one of the four bridges as he signed off on $32 million that the legislature approved Tuesday for capital projects.

The county recently learned from the state Department of Transportation that three of its bridges had received "red flag" status in inspections as part of the state's routine two-year bridge checks. They are: County Road 97/Nicolls Road over County Road 16/Portion Road, County Road 99/Woodside Avenue over Waverly Avenue and County Road 101/Sills Road over the Long Island Rail Road tracks. Red-flag status means the work is deemed top priority and should be done immediately.

A fourth bridge -- County Road 111 over County Road 51/East Moriches Road -- was given a yellow flag, which means work should be undertaken as soon as possible, officials said.

"Within the last month we have got a number of reports from the DOT telling us essentially there's been erosion of the bridge supports that underpin the road on all four bridges," county Public Works Commissioner Gil Anderson said."The bridges are not in imminent danger of collapsing, but these are structural concerns that must be addressed right away."

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A DOT spokeswoman confirmed the bridges had been flagged for corrosion and said the DOT was pleased the county was taking swift action. The DOT can close bridges if corrosion damage is so bad the public could be at risk, she said.

Anderson said the county would now approach three or four companies that had conducted similar structural work for it in the past for a cost estimate. Actual work would begin within two to three months.

Bellone's signature Friday means money can now flow for 12 capital works projects -- in addition to the emergency bridge work -- including resurfacing repairs on five county roads, repairs to four other bridges and elevator upgrades for the county's Criminal Court and H. Lee Denison Buildings.Long Island Contractors Association executive director Marc Herbst praised legislators for moving quickly to address the county's infrastructure needs.

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"This is the perfect time to invest -- with low borrowing costs and bids below engineering estimates because of the competitive economic situation," he said.

The county investment would pay off in jobs beyond the construction sector with architects, design engineers, insurance and banking sectors all benefiting, he said.

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