October 18, 2021

Cortland County bridge cleaning resumes after hiatus

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

A truck crosses the bridge on Oil Mill Road near DeRuyter on Tuesday. The bridge is among those that will be cleaned by the Cortland County Highway Department. The county is resuming the work after not having time to do it in recent years.

Cortland County bridges are beginning to look a little cleaner, but the cost is slow traffic at times.

The county Highway Department plans to wash and clean bridges around the county, something it has not done for years, said Highway Department Superintendent Phil Krey.

Deputy Highway Superintendent Jim Morse said he did not know how long it has been since the county last washed bridges, but knows it’s been longer than the five years he has worked for the department.

Cleaning the bridges helps them to avoid erosion, and drain properly once the drains are cleaned out.

The department had been rehabilitating roads and repairing culverts. But in the past six to eight years, Morse said the roads and culverts have gotten better and not required as much attention.

So now the department is able to shift more toward maintenance work, rather than repairs. And first on the list is washing the bridges.

“Our work load has not allowed for that (maintenance work) in a while,” Morse said.

The department has a specific bridge crew to do the work. It will start with steel deck bridges that are more structurally exposed. Those bridges are more vulnerable to collecting salt and dirt.

“The primary focus will be to cleaning winter salt off the bridge,” Morse said.

The crew will also clean out the scupper drains of the bridges, which may be clogged from not having been washed out in a while.

Work began recently after a few other road rehabilitation projects were completed. Morse said when work is being done on the bridges, one lane will be closed at a time. Once cleaning is completed on one side of the bridge, workers move to the other side.

He does not expect to have to completely close any of the bridges during the cleanings, unless major repairs are needed.
The department has kept up with usual needed repairs to the bridges, Morse said, because the state notifies the county Highway Department if it has inspected a bridge and found problems.

But some of the cleaning could include concrete repairs, or repairs to the guard rails.

Bridge maintenance is included in the Highway Department’s budget. Morse said the department will clean the bridges until it either funding runs out of money, or it cleans all of them.

He hopes to have most of the county bridges cleaned by the end of the year. Those that do not get attended to this year, will be done next year. Morse said the department will try to get back on a cycle of doing the cleaning.