HAGERSTOWN — Washington County averted a potential disaster last month when a team of engineers discovered severe deterioration of the steel beams supporting the Mt. Tabor Road bridge over Rush Run, county Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth III said Tuesday.
“There’s no question in my mind that these two gentlemen saved lives because they found this bridge in this condition,” Kroboth told the Washington County Board of Commissioners. “This is a bridge that school buses cross — and this was done just two days before the first day of school — not to mention the number of residents that cross this bridge on a daily basis to get to and from their homes.”
The bridge, west of Hagerstown in the Broadfording area, was closed immediately after the Aug. 22 discovery of corrosion and section loss to the steel beams supporting the bridge deck, Kroboth said. Traffic is being detoured using Spade Road.
The Mt. Tabor Road bridge was not scheduled for inspection until next year, but a team of engineers taking measurements of a nearby bridge decided to inspect it while they were in the area, Kroboth said.
He described the team as longtime structural engineers who “understand some of the issues with a certain type of bridge construction that we have.”
The bridge is on a four-year inspection schedule and was last inspected in 2008, Kroboth said. The report from that inspection noted some minor corrosion requiring only cleaning and painting, he said.
Bridges classified as major structures — those with spans of 20 feet or more — are inspected either annually or once every two years, depending on the bridge construction and load rating, Kroboth said.
Minor structures, those with spans of less than 20 feet, are inspected every four years.
The Mt. Tabor Road bridge span is about 17 feet.
The county has four other bridges of the same type as the Mt. Tabor Road bridge, Kroboth said. Immediately after seeing the damage, the inspectors visited the other four and found that they were all in acceptable condition and do not require any improvements, Kroboth said.
County officials quickly advertised for bids for a contract to design and build a replacement bridge deck, receiving bids from two companies, Kroboth said.
The commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to award a contract to the lower bidder, Building Systems Inc. of Hagerstown, for $87,600.
The other bidder, Concrete General, bid $228,000 — an amount that apparently reflected costs to replace the entire bridge, Kroboth said.
Building Systems Inc. will begin on the bridge Monday. The work should be completed and the span reopened by Nov. 17, Kroboth said.
Funds for the project will come from the county’s capital projects contingency fund, which had a balance of about $462,000, Kroboth said. The commissioners agreed to transfer $100,000 of that to a fund for the bridge-repair project, allowing for contingency costs for the project.
“This is a perfect example of why we maintain those types of contingency accounts,” County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said. “If we did not, something like this — we would have to look for general fund money, budget transfers, etc.”