Portion of Scottsdale 68th Street Bridge deemed unsafe for public transport

The center of 68th Street Bridge in Scottsdale has been deemed unsafe by transportation officials. The two inside lanes of traffic have been restricted. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Severe deterioration to the underside of a busy four-lane Scottsdale bridge has city officials urgently seeking funding solutions, as the center lanes for the 68th Street Bridge have been deemed unsafe for motorists.

Exposed re-enforced steel was discovered in January on the underbelly of the 68th Street Bridge that spans the Arizona Canal just north of Indian School Road.

Public Works Director Dan Worth says the concrete on the northern part of the bridge has started to come part.

“This is what caused the alarm,” Mr. Worth said as he presented Scottsdale City Council with pictures of the crumbling bridge on March 20.

“We call it delamination or spalling — the concrete was starting to come apart, and you can see exposed re-enforced steel that was covered by concrete when the bridge was constructed. Concrete has fallen off, that’s exposed to the elements, it’s rusting, it’s losing strength because of that.”

The bridge itself was built in the early 1960s as a two-lane bridge, Mr. Worth says. Two outside lanes were added in the early 1970s.

Traffic has been restricted to just the two outside lanes since the issue was first spotted by Arizona Department of Transportation officials in January. ADOT inspects all bridges and box culvert structures over 20-feet in length every other year, city officials say, which is when the 68th Street Bridge issue was uncovered.

Consulting engineer Burgess & Niple shared its findings with the city on Jan. 16.

(Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

The Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved a $400,000 budget appropriation transfer from the available budget in the 2017-18 capital improvement projects fund to a newly created project to be titled “68th Street Bridge Reconstruction Over the Arizona Canal.”

The budget appropriation is for design services, Mr. Worth says. He plans to return to city council later in the year for a construction contract.

Mr. Worth only guessed at a total cost sum, explaining to city council that the type of bridge to be built still needs to be determined. His guess was the reconstruction of the 68th Street Bridge would cost $2 million to $3 million.

The project is to be funded by the fiscal year 2017-18 transportation fund undesignated, unreserved fund balance, a city staff report states. In addition, the elected leaders authorized an engineering services contract with the firm who was hired by ADOT to do the inspection, Burgess & Niple.

In the meantime, traffic is being restricted on the bridge.

“We took immediate action to restrict traffic over the most dangerous parts of the bridge and we contracted directly with the same engineer that did the initial inspection to do a further, more detailed analysis,” Mr. Worth explained to city council.

“They have gone and done several tests — electrical connectivity tests, acoustic testing — to evaluate the soundness of the rest of the structure and the piers. Their recommendation as a result of that is we replace the bridge — not simply attempt to repair it.”

The target date to complete the bridge is mid-January because Salt River Project will be removing water from the canal from mid-January to mid-February, Mr. Worth says.

“We’ve got a very tight window that SRP can provide us,” Mr. Worth said. “If we can do the construction during that window we are going to reduce our costs and reduce the timeline considerably — that’s the time to do it.”

Mr. Worth says in order to meet the January timeframe, a sense of urgency is needed to begin the funding and design contracts.

Councilman David Smith spoke to the item, using it as an example of the needs the city of Scottsdale.

“The reason I wanted this item to be discussed is I’d like for the public to be aware in a very dramatic sense of the infrastructure and capital investment needs of the city,” Mr. Smith said.

“This is probably illustrating in an unfortunate way just how serious some of these problems are in the city and why we need to re-invest in the infrastructure.”

Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield doubled-down on Mr. Smith’s comments.

“This is a bridge that needs to be replaced, it needs to be put on the CIP and funds allocated for,” she said.

Mayor Jim Lane noted the bridge didn’t show any signs of deterioration two years ago when ADOT officials examined it.

“We are rigorously following a normal course of action with the inspection of our infrastructure,” Mr. Lane said.
“This is our response, this is what we need to do. We’re on that, an unsafe condition will be resolved.”

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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