At Issue: Vermont's Bridges - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

At Issue: Vermont's Bridges

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According to the 2011 report, 32 percent of Vermont's bridges are deficient, compared to a national average of 24 percent. The report cites the age of the structures and a funding gap as two reasons for the grade. Here in the state, inspectors acknowledge a few key problems for Vermont bridges.

"Deck leakage and joint leakage. Salt contamination, and over time, traffic," says bridge inspection team leader Martin Kelley.

Those are a few things the team says causes damage to the bridges. And when they're out analyzing bridges, they look for things such as section loss, holes in the steel, deteriorating piers, and damaged guardrails.

"We'll be looking at the deck, the guardrails, the steel superstructure, the substructure. All the components of the bridge, we'll be looking at," Kelley says.

Kelley acknowledges that more people are realizing the infrastructure isn't as good as it used to be but says it's getting better.

"I mean, we are doing the best we possibly can and if we see something that's wrong or needs to be taken care of we will send a letter out. Or if it's something that has to be done immediately we will contact our supervisors and let them know," he says.

And there's already a project in the works to test how much weight travels over Vermont bridges. At the newly-reopened Richmond bridge, they're gathering data to try to figure out if they're designing bridges to hold the right level of load.

"We have a whole bunch of sensors that we placed along that bridge to analyze the vibrations of the bridge," says UVM Assistant Professor Eric Hernandez. "When cars are going through, and that information we can use to infer about the stiffness and strength of the bridge."

At about a dozen other spots, "weight in motion" stations gather more data.

"They measure the weight of the vehicles passing by. You don't even notice it but they are measuring it. So as they go by the thing, the thing measures how much each axel weighs. And so we have data from maybe 40 million trucks or cars," says Hernandez.

So far, there haven't been any big conclusions from that data because researchers say they have to be very careful, since their results could influence how bridges are designed here in the future.

Vermont received a C-minus grade. The national grade for bridges was a C-plus. And if you'd like to see the full report -- visit this link: http://www.vtasce.org/wp-content/uploads/VTASCE_2011_Infrastructure_Report_Card2.pdf

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