By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Construction of the new Moriah Center Bridge will speed up today with the opening of a temporary bridge next to the existing span.
Essex County Department of Public Works Superintendent Anthony LaVigne said Luck Brothers of Plattsburgh, the low bidder for the project, is supposed to finish the new bridge by Dec. 1.
“It’s not a hard bridge to construct,” LaVigne said. “The new bridge will be a large concrete arch. The bridge will have a new alignment.”
The former Mill Brook Diner at the spot was torn down to allow construction of the new bridge on an improved alignment. The mortgage company for the property sold the county an easement for $35,500.
The Moriah Center Bridge, a major span that gets about 3,500 cars a day, passes over Mill Brook and was built in 1920. Its main problem is deterioration of the steel girders that support the wooden deck, and some of the damage was caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
The temporary bridge from Mabey Inc. of Elkridge, Md., will be installed next to the existing one and will support trucks and school buses.
The 40-foot-long temporary bridge is estimated to cost about $70,000.
The existing bridge will be removed and a new one built. LaVigne said preliminary work on the replacement started earlier this month.
Total cost is estimated at $2.3 million, LaVigne said, with 80 percent of the cost paid for by the Federal Highway Administration and 15 percent by the state.
A county bridge bond will be used for the county’s 5 percent.
The Moriah Center Bridge on Plank Road (County Route 7) was red-flagged by a State Department of Transportation inspection in August 2012 and its weight limit reduced to 5 tons.
Officials said deterioration of the steel sections underneath had accelerated following Irene. Emergency repairs were made so school buses and emergency vehicles could cross.
The DOT uses the red-flag designation to report the failure or potential failure of a primary structural component of a bridge.
“It’s a vital bridge to the Town of Moriah and the surrounding area,” Moriah Town Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said. “It has the highest daily traffic count of any bridge in the county’s inventory.”
Two other Moriah bridges were heavily damaged by storms in 2011.
The Forge Hollow Bridge was red-flagged recently by a DOT inspection, and repairs are underway there now.
The Sprague Mill Bridge on Ensign Pond Road was destroyed, and a temporary bridge is in place. Federal funding is awaited to start the Sprague Mill Bridge replacement at an estimated cost of $1.6 million.
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