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‘Why Are We Paying For It Again?’ Three Years Later, Taxpayers Foot Bill for Repairs on Goshen Creek Bridge

Photo by Maria Richardson

By Jesse Wood

June 26, 2012. Here we go again.

Less than three years after a similar “rehabilitation” job was completed, repairs to the Goshen Creek Bridge began in May to replace defective railing and the adjoining concrete deck. The bridge is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 286.

“Tons of concrete was falling off the new deck onto the state road beneath the bridge,” said Larry Hultquist, project manager for the Blue Ridge Parkway, referring to George Hayes Road. “That’s causing some of the problems.”

And according to a bridge inspection report completed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in July 2011, “Loose concrete [existed] over the field which accesses a [nearby] walking trail.”

In April, Boone-based Greene Construction won the contract for the project with a $783,910 bid. According to the project synopsis, these re-repairs are expected to cost anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million.

General view of delamination and spalling along west side deck near south pier. Photo from bridge inspection report by FHWA

This comes four years after a somewhat similar –and costly- “rehabilitation” of Goshen Creek Bridge began in April 2008. For that project, the Asheville-based Taylor & Murphy Construction was awarded the $2.3 million contract.

The project involved facilitating deck replacement, painting of superstructure steel, picket bridge rail replacement and guardrail installation, drain repairs, asphalt paving and other related work to restore the integrity of the historic structure, according to a press release from National Park Services in September 2009, which was when Goshen Creek Bridge official re-opened after repairs.

“There was a problem with the first contract with [Taylor & Murphy Construction],” Hultquist said, because concrete was exfoliating on the edges of the deck, which led to the rock falls on George Hayes Road. He added that Greene Construction is now replacing the three-year old guardrail with a heavier three-rail system.

“It can’t be left the way it is. It has to be repaired. It’s dangerous,” Hultquist said. “Where the rail supports and is connected to the concrete, that’s where the concrete has been chipping off.”

Photo by Maria Richardson

According to last summer’s bridge inspection report prepared by FHWA, “It appears that water is able to get under the rail posts, then leaks through the curb and deck along the PVC sleeves installed for the rail anchor bolts. This water intrusion is causing delamination and spalling along the exterior faces of the new deck which has exposed coated rebar and the PVC sleeves. The loose concrete over the underpass roadway has been removed at this time; however, there are still areas of loose concrete over the field which accesses a walking trail.”

The FHWA designed the initial project plans and Taylor & Murphy Construction was contracted to carry out those plans.

The initial repairs have been officially deemed to have design and construction flaws, according to Hultquist, adding that the neither FHWA nor Taylor & Murphy Construction want to admit fault.

“No one is really owning up to the reasons,” Hultquist said.

Asked if taxpayers are paying for the repairs again, Hultquist said, “Unfortunately. Errors were made, and we have to fix it. That cost taxpayers more money.”

Phillip Creasman, an employee of Taylor & Murphy Construction was involved with the old construction project but declined to comment on Monday afternoon.

When asked directly whether it was a construction and/or design flaw, a representative for the FHWA released this statement:

“The Blue Ridge Parkway Bridge is open and safe for the traveling public. FHWA, through routine inspections, discovered that the curb supporting the railing was showing distress.  FHWA will replace the curb and reattach the railings but until the curb is removed, the source of the problem is unknown.  The project will take about eight months to complete.”

Delamination and spalling with exposed rebar and pvc on east deck side. Photo from bridge inspection report by FHWA

Hanes Boren, owner of Footsloggers, has had several customers enter his store and “complain” about the re-repair of Goshen Creek Bridge.

“It just speaks to how hard it is for the government to manage anything and get it right,” Boren said. “Somebody should be held accountable.”

“Why are we paying for it again?” Boren said. “I just think it’s sad that the taxpayers won’t see their money spent more wisely than that.”

In the mean time, a traffic light system has been installed to control one-way traffic through the construction area. The project is expected to be completed next summer.