Mat-Su—The opening of a new, short-span bridge might sound like below-the-fold news, but not to residents like Glenn and Sandy Guy and more than 30 others who live beyond Welch Bridge near Hatcher Pass and were recently without vital services such as heating fuel, septic haul-away, and fire truck response.
Such services delivered by a heavy truck were prohibited from crossing the bridge after the State downgraded it in June 2011, restricting traffic to three tons. Anticipating winter and the summer threat of fire, resident Glenn Guy emailed Borough Public Works Director Shaun O'Neil in May, requesting a new bridge fast. “We were in danger of losing our property in the event there was a fire,” Guy said. Borough Public Works responded quickly, moving the project from concept to reality in just three months. This week the bridge officially opens, restoring services to Borough residents in time for the bitter winds of November. "The residents told us they needed help, and we responded in a single busy construction season. That's extremely efficient local government," O'Neil said. "Project Engineer Scott Adams delivered." “We’re all elated. They’ve done a great job,” Guy said.
Local Boyscouts cut the ribbon on the new bridge recently with Assemblymember Jim Colver, who represents the area. Colver said calls from constituents came in this spring. "After the bridge was posted as unsafe, and fuel companies ceased delivering to Welch Way residents, I knew we had to act quickly,” Colver said. “I am very thankful for the rapid response by our Public Works Department and for the funding to repair bridges provided by our legislative delegation.”
The old bridge was a retired railcar that was turned into a bridge for 37 years. Railcars are used throughout the country mostly in rural areas. They are a viable option because of their low cost and ease of installation. The railcars are typically plenty strong, said Project Engineer Scott Adams. However, the old Welch Way bridge had a sufficiency rating that reached only 17.7 out of a possible 100 points in a system that judges whether a bridge is safe. The new $400,000 bridge is 60 feet long. Six steel piles were driven 50 feet below ground. The road surface is a concrete deck supported by steel girders. Swalling Construction, Inc. installed the bridge.
See the transformation for yourself. Watch fall leaves give way to snow as the old rail car goes and in comes the new steel bridge on the Welch Bridge time lapse imagery.
For more information call Project Engineer Scott Adams at 745-9810 or Assemblymember Jim Colver at 746-5300 or Stefan Hinman at 745-9520 Stefan Hinman, Mat-Su Borough Public Affairs/Media Design Specialist 745-9520/982-9982 . Photo top: Original railcar bridge before replacement; Photo right: Boyscouts cutting ribbon; Photos,Time-lapse video and music—Stefan Hinman/MSB