During the last Montgomery County commissioners’ meeting, the board stated the area’s bridges are in need of repair.
“We have over 130 bridges and the majority of them are structurally deficient,” said Vice Chairman Leslie Richards.
That doesn’t mean the bridges aren’t safe — there are repairs that should be done sooner than later. The county must choose to prioritize what bridges to work on.
“We’re taking a good look and see how to prioritize them and making sure we care for them,” Richards said. “They’re county-own bridges. They are our assets. We will be having many public discussions on how to be doing that. How to invest in our own assets and make sure the bridges that we do invest in are ones that are widely used and have a heavy value of traffic.”
Fixing these bridges will result in the county borrowing money.
“The critical thing to understand is that the priorities are changing,” said Commissioner Bruce Castor. “If we are going to be spending capital dollars we are going to be spending it on buildings, roads and bridges that the county owns, infrastructure that the county must maintain. That was the mistake that was made with the previous administration. We had the wrong priorities.”
Castor claimed the county was spending money it did not need. Now, with a new focus, it is looking to budget some of the projects.
“We are basically looking over the next five years,” Richards said. “It could continue over the next 10 years. Just to give you a general idea, I believe that over 65 percent of our bridges are structurally deficient.”
The problems with the bridges did not just appear out of nowhere; the issues were ignored with money spent elsewhere.
“In the past it appears that bridges were selected and some of the parameters were not considered,” Richards said.
The average age of bridges in the county is around 65. Richards wants to have each bridge inspected and see what problems are there. In total, the county may have to spend close to $100 million to fix them.
“I joke with people that they [the bridges] are all senior citizens and they are,” he said. “They need a lot of attention. We have bridges that are quite old in the system. We just have to make sure we are being smart about it and evaluating them in a whole, comprehensive way.”
The county also has other issues to fix such as buildings where county officials work in addition to the evaluation of the county’s 911 emergency system.
“It isn’t just bridges,” Castor said. “It is the two buildings the radio projects and all other capital needs.”