Eklutna Bridge meeting Feb. 23

Municipality seeks public input on potential closure of shaky crossing


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A public meeting will be held today (Thursday, Feb. 23) at Mirror Lake Middle School to discuss the potential closure of the deteriorating Eklutna River Bridge.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting will begin at 6 p.m.

Most of the Public Works Department, including director Ron Thompson, Traffic and Street Maintenance departments, along with municipal manager George Vakalis and the Chugiak/Birchwood/Eagle River Rural Road Service Area Board (CBERRRSA) will all be present.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities imposed weight restrictions on the bridge after conducting an inspection in September 2010. The load limit prohibits all commercial vehicle traffic.

But many still don’t understand which vehicles are permitted to cross the bridge, Thompson said during an interview Feb. 6. The meeting will clear up any confusion concerning those weight restrictions, he said.

Municipal traffic engineer Stephanie Mormilo has said a fully loaded Ford F-350 pickup towing extra weight would be over the limit.

Thompson, Mormilo and Vakalis each have said they’ve heard that people haven’t been adhering to the load limit.

At a CBERRRSA meeting Nov. 15, 2011, the Road Board unanimously passed a motion to recommend closing the bridge permanently.

In December 2011, Vakalis said he wanted the public’s input before deciding whether or not to close the structure located just north of the Thunderbird Falls trailhead parking lot.

Thompson said one goal of the meeting is to find out what would happen should the bridge be closed. The municipality wants to gather as much information as possible before making a decision, he said.

A handout with pictures discussing what’s wrong with the bridge will be available at the meeting, Thompson said.

Today, the bridge can support half the weight it could when constructed in 1935, according to DOT. A center arch was added to the bridge in 1950, and it was widened from one to two lanes in 1952.

The local road board so far has been unsuccessful in obtaining state money to fix or replace the bridge.

DOT has said replacing the bridge would be cheaper than fixing it.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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