- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

STOWE, Vt. (AP) - A new bridge installed this summer just south of Stowe village is showing big cracks in its concrete beams, and a crew was on the scene Thursday to patch them with epoxy.

Phil Harrington, the Agency of Transportation engineer in charge, said the bridge on Vermont Route 100 would be checked again in the spring to see how well the fixes are working.

Richard Tetreault, chief engineer at the Transportation Agency, told the Associated Press there was no near-term danger of the steel-reinforced structure collapsing. Rather, there’s worry that the $1.3 million bridge’s lifespan might be shorter than the projected 100 years.

The 74-foot span crosses the Gold Brook, a tributary of the Little River, which flows to the Waterbury Reservoir and then the Winooski River.

“We feel comfortable with its structural performance based on our engineering evaluation,” Tetreault said. “But we’d like to minimize the cracking. You can have water and winter chlorides (used to clear ice and snow) seep through the cracks.” Over time, that could lead to damage, he said.

Tetreault said the bridge reconstruction used a new type of prefabricated concrete beams under the length of its span. He said the company that made the beams, Middlebury-based J.P. Carrara and Sons, had patched some of the cracks, but that others were spotted after the beams were delivered to the site. Both patched and unpatched cracks were visible Thursday morning from under the bridge.

Tetreault said state officials had been meeting with representatives of both Carrera and the general contractor on the job, Austin Construction of Concord, to discuss the issue.

A woman who answered the phone at Carrera’s offices at midday Thursday said no one was immediately available to talk about the cracking concrete.

George Austin, owner of Austin Construction, said cracking concrete is part of life in the construction industry.

“There’s two kinds of concrete, cracked concrete and concrete that hasn’t cracked yet,” he said. “It’s not uncommon. It’s probably more common than anybody would like.”

Tetreault said similar beams were slated to be used soon in a bridge project on Vermont Route 15 west of Johnson. He said that decision would stand, but that the agency would impose a moratorium after the Johnson project on using the beams until it’s clear the cracking issue is resolved.

“We considered stopping it,” he said of the Johnson project, “but there’s the merit of trying to get it right, too.”

Word of the concrete cracking problem came days after a news conference Monday in Rutland where Gov. Peter Shumlin touted the state’s recent bridge building and restoration efforts. He said the percent of the state’s bridges deemed structurally deficient had dropped from nearly 20 percent in 2008 to about 8 percent in 2013.

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