BY HOWARD BALABAN
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — Driving across a bridge a major metropolitan area could result in a toll fare of $10 or more.
Driving across a bridge in Orleans County could become just as costly.
During Wednesday afternoon’s Orleans County Legislature meeting, John Papponetti of LaBella Associates discussed the work that needs to be done to the county’s bridges. He based his plan off the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and the amount of federal aid available from it (none at this time).
Papponetti said Orleans County has 67 bridges, of which 34 have a five or six rating, meaning they are new, like new, or in good condition. He said 28 earned a four and the remaining five received poor marks.
Of the rated bridges, he said 14 are “categorized as structurally deficient, meaning they can no longer carry the load for which they were originally intended.” He said a handful are “functionally obsolete” due to substandard lane widths, unsafe protective guide rails, or other deficiencies.
Papponetti outlined a five- to seven-year capital improvement plan with bridges as the chief priority.
“We want to show that Orleans County is proactive in upgrading its infrastructure,” he said. A main part of that infrastructure is 200 miles of county road. And, in a county like Orleans where agriculture is a driving force, bridges are a major necessity.
“From an agricultural standpoint, if we are forced to close bridges, we lose access points,” Papponetti said.
The costs associated with countywide bridge needs are threefold, Papponetti explained. The bridges in decent shape would require preventative maintenance. There are also those that need to be rehabilitated, and those beyond repair that need to be replaced.
With TIP it is possible to seek federal funding to pay for 80 percent of bridge projects. However, Papponetti said there is no funding available at this time. He also pointed out that should some bridge projects be completed through local funds — budgeted, bonded, etc. — there could be a major savings in construction costs. According to the numbers he provided, replacing the worst of the bridges in the county could cost $12 million (80 percent federally funded). Keeping it local could cost $7 million.
The capital plan, still in its preliminary stages, identified three bridges to start rehabilitating. They are the Lake Shore Road Bridge over Marsh Creek, the Marshall Road Bridge over Johnson Creek, and the Dunlop Road Bridge over Oak Orchard Creek.
Almost 20 other bridges were among those earmarked for preventative maintenance in the plan. That “little bit of work adds 15 to 20 years of good use on these bridges,” Papponetti said.
While bridges top the list of county infrastructure improvement, Papponetti said highways, culverts, buildings and grounds, and county equipment are also on the radar.
Legislature Chairman Dave Callard said the plan presented by Papponetti “will help us figure out how to stretch our dollars as wisely as possible as we begin a long term approach.”