Westchester lawmakers target troubled bridges

The Fulton Avenue Drawbridge, which connects Mount Vernon

The Fulton Avenue Drawbridge, which connects Mount Vernon with Pelham Manor, is out of commission for the second time this year. The bridge will be closed indefinitely for emergency repairs after a routine state Department of Transportation inspection revealed "severe" deterioration on the bridge's steel beams, Westchester County officials said. (Sept. 5, 2012) (Credit: Faye Murman)

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The condition of aging Westchester bridges has local lawmakers so worried they have asked the county to provide a game plan for keeping an eye on trouble spots.

Concern about bridges came to a crescendo with the recent closing of the Fulton Avenue Drawbridge in Mount Vernon.

County officials now hope that the Fulton Avenue bridge will be open again for the busy winter holiday season, but that news hasn't ended the outcry from Democrats in the country Legislature.

"We have to have someone out there to see if there are any unexpected surprises that we can prevent," said Legis. MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson), who has called Westchester's county-owned spans "ticking time bombs."

Shimsky said on Wednesday that, after reviewing a list of the 40 most vulnerable county spans provided by the state, nine were identified as a priority for the county Legislature's Government Operations Committee during its regular Tuesday weekly meeting. Shimsky said she had attended the meeting, as had Jay Pisco, the county's public works and transportation commissioner.

According to Shimsky, Pisco is now a regular in the meeting, and will be monitoring problem bridges.

"We are going to be drilling down on bridges, excuse the pun, for a while," she added.

The state has ranked the county's 121 bridges on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 describing a new bridge and 1 a hazardous bridge, in urgent need of repair or replacement.

Any bridge rated between a 3 and a 5 needs work, Shimsky said.

Heading the list of the nine bridges targeted by the legislators is Ashford Avenue Bridge, which, at a 3.65 rating, is the worst county-owned bridge in Westchester.

The Ashford Avenue Bridge was in the news on June 22, when a chunk of concrete fell from the bridge, the second such incident this year. The county plans to install planking under the bridge and netting along the sides of the bridge this fall.

The remaining eight bridges and their ratings are:

• Ardsley's northbound access ramp from the Ashford Avenue Bridge onto the Saw Mill River Parkway(4.11).

• Mount Vernon's Fulton Avenue Drawbridge (4.25)

Yonkers' Broad Street Bridge (4.27)

• New Rochelle's Glen Island Bridge (4.38)

Yonkers' Midland Avenue Bridge (4.42)

• Hastings-on-Hudson's Warburton Avenue Bridge (4.44)

• Rye's Old Post Road/North Street Bridge (4.45)

An addition 31 bridges are rated between 4.5 and 5. Of the remaining 81 bridges, 11 have a rating of 6 or higher. The county's best bridge is also its newest: Yonkers' Bronx River Bridge, built in 2009, has a 6.83 rating.

Almost all the bridges were inspected by the state in 2011. Shimsky said that is a positive sign, because it shows that the state Department of Transportation "is doing its job."

While seemingly pleased at progress made this week, the legislators remained critical of the county administration's approach to bridge maintenance.

"It's troubling to know that the work that we're doing now is because the red flag has been thrown on these projects," said Legis. Bill Ryan (D-White Plains), another member of the Government Operations Committee. "The bigger problem is that there is a capital program in place and if you carry it out correctly, you would never run into this problem."

State DOT officials did not return calls for comment.

County officials said they could not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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