Bridge collapse closes Kirkstown road near Letterkenny
By Carolyn Farrar
Donegal County Council hoped to have the Kirkstown road re-opened by the end of this week, following the collapse of a section of roadway at a stone bridge there, just outside of Letterkenny.
Council crews were on the scene on Tuesday to repair damage to the stone arch on the bridge, and motorists were using alternative routes.
Sinn Fin Cllr. Pdraig MacLochlainn, chairperson of the council's roads and transportation strategic policy committee (SPC), said that when it comes to roads funding, "bridge maintenance is a poor relation".
The councillor said that the council's bridge inspection programme identified thousands of bridges across the county, "and quite a number of them are in significant need of repair but it's clear we don't have the resources."
Cllr. MacLochlainn said that when the Donegal delegation met earlier this year with the National Roads Authority they learned that the government's four-year plan called for "drastic -- and that's the word they used, drastic" reduction in capital expenditures.
"I think what we are going to see is a focus on emergency maintenance, a ‘needs must' situation for some time ahead," he said.
Under the council's bridge strengthening programme, in an average year the council repairs 10 to 12 bridges that council technical staff found most in need of repair during inspections, a council spokesperson told the Democrat. The council also repairs or replaces five to 10 damaged bridges a year through preventative maintenance or emergency repairs, and the NRA and town councils also undertake bridge repairs on roads under their jurisdiction.
The bridges in the council's strengthening programme range from concrete structures to typically older masonry arches and culverts, many built during the 1800s. When repairing older structures, the council also works to retain their original character and heritage, the spokesperson said.
Stephen McCrory, executive engineer in the council's road design office reviewed the council's bridge inspection programme at the last meeting of the roads and transportation SPC.
The council's original database of bridges included 1,431 non-national and 50 national road structures. Council crews had inspected 86 percent of those bridges by late November 2010, and found 18 percent in excellent condition; 31 percent in good condition, with minimal work required; 25 percent in average condition, with general maintenance required; 15 percent in poor condition, requiring strengthening; and 5 percent in very poor condition, requiring immediate action.
The inspections informed the selection of bridges for the strengthening programme, Mr. McCrory said.
The county also has 3,710 of what the council called potential structures, a combination of bridges, pipes and culverts that were not on the original database, he said.
Just 57 percent of those were inspected over the same period, with 12 percent of those found to be in poor or very poor condition. Council technical staff estimated that overall, 450 of those structures would require structural maintenance.
420 inspections per year
The council is proposing a six-year rolling cycle of inspections for bridges with larger spans, beginning with bridges in the worst condition on the busiest routes. The council anticipated that about 2,530 bridges in the county would meet the size criteria for inclusion in the proposed programme, leading to 420 inspections a year.
"We'll get there as long as we have a planned approach," John McLaughlin, director of service for roads and transportation, told the committee.
Cllr. MacLochlainn said the council was doing its best with the funds it had been allocated. "When you're given resources and have a massive responsibility, you can only do as much as you're given," he said, calling the council's allocation "nowhere near sufficient."