The Fir St. Bridge, located in the center of Winlock over Olequa Creek, has been closed indefinitely as of March 13 due to a report indicating erosion around the bridge’s foundation, and city officials are hoping they can find funds to replace the bridge entirely.
Winlock’s Fir St. Bridge has been closed until further notice after a recent inspection found the bridge to be structurally insufficient, and officials are exploring options for either replacement or repair.
Closed indefinitely to pedestrian and vehicle traffic as of March 13, the inspection report, printed March 12, identified multiple areas of fatigue and damage on the bridge relating both to its age (built in 1960) and damage sustained during recent floods of the Chehalis River.
Of the greatest concern was a finding that the pile under the west abutment was eroding significantly, which Mayor Lonnie J. Dowell said was the primary factor leading to the closure.
Dowell said inspectors had advised the city the bridge was in such a state it may collapse under its own weight and no traffic should be allowed to cross, with the report noting as much as five inches of material in some areas of the pile had already eroded away.
Dowell said it is the city’s hope to replace the bridge entirely, adding an application is currently being prepared to seek $2,096,000 in grant assistance from the Federal Highways Bridge Program, which is being facilitated by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). According to WSDOT’s website, the application deadline for grant assistance is May 5 and receiving cities with a goal of bridge replacement will be required to contribute a 20% match in funding, or a 13.5% match if they are able to proceed with construction by 2018.
Dowell said Winlock’s current budget does not have enough flexibility to pay for the match out-of-pocket and said he is prepared to seek additional funding assistance if need be, including the possibility of a grant from the state’s Transportation Improvement Board.
The website also said the priority for replacement funding is being given to bridges with a sufficiency rating of 40 or less, and the Fir St. Bridge was rated 26.13 in the inspection report. According to WSDOT, sufficiency ratings are measured on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing a bridge without flaws, and 0 representing a structurally-defunct bridge.
Dowell said, if the grant funding does not become available, officials will then begin pursuing alternatives to at least repair the bridge. He indicated the city may have access to around $600,000 in FEMA funding for damage sustained to the river banks under the Fir St. Bridge and the Tennessee Rd. Bridge during the Chehalis River flood, though Dowell stated the funds are not yet a sure thing.
He also said, in the course of finding funds to replace the Fir St. Bridge, Winlock is also looking for ways to replace the Walnut St. Bridge as well, which predates Fir St. by at least a decade, according to City hall. Dowell said being able to replace them both in conjunction would be cost-effective, but he indicated the Walnut St. Bridge is still believed to be structurally-sound at this time, according to an inspection conducted last year.
He did, however, indicate concern for what could be the affect, in the future, of added traffic on the Walnut St. Bridge while the Fir St. Bridge remains closed.
As a result of the findings of the inspection, the Winlock City Council is expected to have approved a resolution officially closing the bridge and declaring a state of emergency during their regular council meeting Monday night, which Dowell said will allow Winlock official access to state and county emergency resources.