Bay Road railroad overpass shows signs of deterioration

Constructed in 1912, the Bay Road railroad overpass spans 32 feet over Bay Road.
Constructed in 1912, the Bay Road railroad overpass spans 32 feet over Bay Road.

A 2015 State of Vermont inspection report describes the Bay Road railroad overpass’s condition as showing “serious deterioration.” The report was received by the Town of Shelburne late last week as part of research being conducted for a Bay Road feasibility study. Town Manager Joe Colangelo first publicly reported the finding in his weekly report released on Friday.

An overall rating of “4” on a scale of 1-9, with a “9” being very good/new, had been assigned to the rail bridge. Among the inspector’s findings were that the stem, wingwalls and bridge seat on the abutments – which support the lateral pressure of the bridge span – all rated a “5” (poor) or worse. Fixed and expansion bearings, which are part of the superstructure, rated poor, as did anchor bolts. The top flange or chord of the girders/truss (framework) received a “4” (Serious Deterioration). The bottom flanges and webs of the floor beams, which support the bridge’s floor, were also found to be in serious deterioration.

While the overall rating for the bridge is not good, Assistant Vice President of Vermont Rail System Seldon Houghton stressed that there is no imminent danger posed by the structure. The picture was also not wholly bad, with no scores of less than “4” and several items ranking as “Satisfactory.”

“The bridge is not in critical or imminent failure mode. That is what the public should know,” Houghton said Monday. He noted that a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with engineers would look at areas in which the bridge needs improvements.

According to Vermont Agency of Transportation’s (VTrans) Rail Bridge Management Department and Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC), the responsibility for maintaining the condition of the overpass rests with Vermont Rail. It is one of three dozen rail bridges in Vermont that are leased by the operator rather than under the direct domain of the State.

On Monday morning, Town Manager Joe Colangelo emailed the railway regarding the overpass. He asked President David Wulfson what will be done to enhance the safety of the bridge and requested, on behalf of the Town, the plan for what will be done to properly maintain and/or replace the bridge.
Houghton said in an interview that the report is something of which the railway has been aware. He said that the bridge is one of several the railway was planning to discuss with engineers at the Tuesday meeting.

The issue of the Bay Road rail overpass may be on the agenda at a future Selectboard meeting. Colangelo said that it may show up as part of the Sept. 13 Capital Improvement Plan discussion.

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