WILMINGTON - Tractor-trailers can no longer use the deteriorating, historic Wilmington Bridge, and it may have to be repaired or replaced in a few years.
The bridge, over the West Branch of the AuSable River on state Route 86 in the center of town, was built in 1935, the same time the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway was dedicated. The state Department of Transportation recently reduced its weight limit to 20 tons, and tractor-trailers are being detoured through residential neighborhoods on Springfield and Fox Farm roads, said Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston.
Preston said DOT officials told him they hope the bridge will last another five years, at which point state funding might be available to fix it. There is no state funding now.
The Wilmington Bridge is seen Tuesday afternoon.
(Enterprise photo — Nathan Brown)
DOT investigated the bridge in depth after the 2010 biennial inspection showed an increase in cracking under the bridge, said DOT spokeswoman Carol Breen. Steel and concrete samples were tested, and the concrete showed signs of serious deterioration.
"Concrete of this vintage is highly susceptible to damage from freezing and thawing, as it has little capacity for expansion," Breen wrote in an email. "This then leads to cracking, which gets further accelerated by water."
DOT data shows 2,019 vehicles use the bridge daily, and 10 percent of them are trucks. The number that exceed 20 tons is unknown.
Many of New York's bridges are in bad shape, and there is little money available to fix them. The best known North Country example is the Champlain Bridge from Crown Point to Chimney Point, Vt., which had to be closed in October 2009. The bridge was demolished in December of that year; a new one is under construction and expected to open this October.
The Wilmington Bridge is considered "representative of bridge architecture and aesthetics in the early automobile era," according to the AuSable River Association's AuSable River Guide. It was built with local granite, Preston said.