Newell: Budget should not affect summer bridge work

PARKERSBURG – A reduction in funding for bridge maintenance should not affect a planned closure of Memorial Bridge this summer for work.

Mayor Bob Newell said dates for the two-week closure have not yet been set and are dependent upon a bidding process and the selection of the company.

Last week Parkersburg City Council’s Committee of the Whole approved an amendment to the proposed 2013-14 city budget, which moved $55,000 out of the Memorial Bridge’s maintenance fund placing it instead in a demolition fund. Newell told the committee then the change would mean less money would be spent on maintaining the bridge.

Even so, Newell said Friday the change shouldn’t affect the summer project.

“We have $400,000 in repair contingency,” he said. “That’s a separate line item for the bridge.”

If needed, that money could be used to help cover the cost of a planned joint replacement and polycarb resurfacing of the bridge, as well as painting, he said.

The closure does come at some expense. Newell said not only is there the price of the actual repairs, but the closure also will cost the bridge about $70,000 in revenue for those two weeks.

“We try and get as much work done during those two weeks,” he said. Last year during a joint replacement and planned closure “we got all that work done in the same time.”

Those repairs are vital, however, both for the safety of those using the bridge and the lifespan of the structure itself.

“If you take care of a bridge, it can last 100 years or more,” Newell said.

The bridge joints are damaged due to contraction and expansion, and the polycarb surface gets worn and cracked due to weather and constant use.

Newell said while the bridge does not generate revenue for the city, it does pay for itself.

“It makes enough money for it to do repairs every year,” he said. “Every extra dime goes back into repair and maintenance.”

Newell said while this year’s demolition contribution was increased from $125,000 to the state-recommended $180,000, he does not believe the state fund the money goes into would be sufficient to cover the cost of demolishing the bridge.

“I suspect (the recommended local contribution) will be adjusted by the state down the road,” he said. “Realistically we will start to have to put a larger amount into that fund.”