Prince Street bridge raising resident concerns

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo The 20-year old Prince Street bridge was inspected by the Department of Transportation on May 5, which gave the bridge a 94.4 percent safety rating and proclaimed it not deficient.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Transportation schedules a regular inspection for the Prince Street bridge over the railroad tracks once every two years.

In fact, the last one took place only last month with the overpass getting a status of “not deficient.”

Some Clovis citizens aren’t so sure, however.

Noting crumbling pieces of concrete in areas where north and south-bound ramps connect with the main deck, Clovis resident Chuck Glikas has concerns about the 20-year-old structure.

“Where the joints come together, you’ll see it’s popping concrete. There’s pressure there,” said Glikas, who works in construction himself, but added he had no particular experience with overpasses.

A motorist with a sharp eye, Glikas’ attention has turned toward the barrier separating the road from the sidewalk on either end of the overpass. The most extensive damage is at the southern connection points.

“At one point, the joints were about three-quarters to an inch wide and they were filled with some kind of sealant,” Glikas said. “Since about the first of the year, I’ve noticed that big pieces are popping (out) right at those joints, which tells me that they’re touching each other.

“And if they’re touching each other, that means that something’s settling,” he added. “Now, I know a bridge is made to give and move, but it shouldn’t have chunks popping off where the joints are.

“What worries me is now that the Hull Street overpass is closed, you’re getting truck traffic that it never got before. I’ve been on it when you’ve had trucks bumper-to-bumper with trains going underneath it — so you’ve got all that weight and vibration.”

Prince Street, or State Highway 70, used to take cars and trucks under the railroad tracks until the overpass was built in 1989.

Tim Ashley, a former Curry County commissioner, is the owner of Clovis Concrete — the business that supplied concrete for the main deck over the tracks two decades ago.

On Wednesday, Ashley took a closer look at the structure and found it disconcerting.

“There’s major disintegration there. The south ramp is where it’s pretty blatantly obvious,” Ashley said. “Where it’s cracking, that definitely looks to me like structural settlement — and it’s put pressure on that concrete.

“The question is whether that is a structural issue and that I can’t answer,” he added.

Frank Martinez, inspector with the District 2 office of the state Department of Transportation, conducted the May inspection of the bridge.

“It’s structurally safe, yes. That’s not a problem,” said Martinez, who also added on Wednesday that he was willing to come to Clovis the next day to check it over again.

Martinez, in his report, did recommend new joints be installed as well as other improvements such as reinstalling bearing pads, cleaning the abutments, cleaning and painting all steel members — and correcting the settlement on the approaches.

“The approaches have settlement. In fact, we went there three years ago to (fix it) because we had settlement issues,” Martinez said. “I guess it’s just started again and that’s pretty typical with bridges.”