A recent inspection of the Bluffton Road Bridge has found safety issues that forced the city to issue new weight limits for the structure.
The new boundary sets a 12-ton maximum, as proscribed by Fort Wayne’s City Engineers.
According to a recent release from the city, “City Engineers found maintenance concerns and hired an outside bridge inspector to take a closer look. The findings determined that the weight restriction needed to be in place.”
The city already has posted signs displaying the new weight limit on the bridge over the St. Mary’s River. City officials also have begun the process of applying for federal funding to help pay for upgrades to ensure the bridge’s safety, according to Frank Suarez, City Spokesman.
“We found some issues with the bridge deck, which is the superstructure that holds the pavement that the cars travel on,” said Shan Gunawardna, Fort Wayne Public Works Director. “The piers that actually go into the river are the substructure of the bridge.” He said the firm hired to inspect the bridge was USI Engineering in Fort Wayne.
The bridge is still completely safe for automobiles, Gunawardna said, as the new limit is 12 tons, while the typical car weighs only about two tons. The new maximums will really only affect buses, smaller delivery trucks, and larger semis and heavy industrial and commercial delivery vehicles, he noted.
Suggested alternate routes for larger vehicles include:
– Buses and smaller delivery trucks are asked to use Brooklyn Avenue, Taylor Street and Broadway Street to avoid the bridge.
– Larger semi trucks and heavy industrial commercial delivery trucks and vans should use Tillman Road, Lafayette, Clinton and U.S. 27 and Jefferson Boulevard to circumnavigate the bridge.
– The new limits likely will create headaches for many of the buses that normally use the bridge. Fort Wayne Community Schools’ spokesperson Krista Stockman noted the detours will cause “major disruptions to our routes.”
– The school system already has had to redraw more than 100 school bus routes that normally use the Bluffton Road Bridge, meaning many students in Waynedale will now have different pick-up and drop-off times.
– City buses from Citilink likely will be impacted, as well. A spokesman for that service said bus passengers on the No. 1 route will now need to use the No. 3 and No. 9 routes to get to the same areas.
A similar weight restriction was enforced seven years ago on the Anthony Boulevard Bridge over the Maumee River after an inspection of that structure found similar problems. That bridge was closed entirely in September 2013, and reopened again in May 2014 after upgrades.
City officials expect the new weight limits to be in place for quite some time, as the city won’t be able to receive federal funding for help to fix the bridge’s problems for about five years, Gunawardna said.
“The project is already slated for federal funds,” he said, “but they won’t be available to us until July 2024.”