County: Selkirk bridge safe to travel

Comptroller notes Route 55 span's low condition rating

A bridge in Selkirk has been cited by the state comptroller as having one of the lowest condition ratings in the state, but Albany County officials say that the public can cross the Route 55 bridge over Vloman Kill with confidence.

A report from Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli identifies 93 bridges across the state with a lower safety rating than the recently demolished Lake Champlain Bridge, which was brought down over safety concerns after an inspection found structural decaying.

The Lake Champlain Bridge carried a 3.375 condition rating. The Route 55 bridge over Vloman Kill has a 3.33 rating on the state Department of Transportation's 7-point scale.

While the crossing is scheduled for maintenance in the county's capital plan, the fact it is a series of culverts instead of a traditional bridge means that the rating does not reflect the bridge's safety, said county Department of Public Works Commissioner Michael Franchini.

It doesn't really represent the seriousness of the condition for that structure, he said of the condition rating. "There is no immediate danger to the traveling public."

The span is classified as a bridge however, as it traverses more than a 20-foot opening under the road. It is thus one of the more than 17,000 bridges the DOT inspects biennially.

"Most of the components that you have say, on the Tappan Zee Bridge, you don't have those components on a pipe culvert," Franchini said. He added that county workers do their own inspections of county bridges in addition to the DOT reports.

New York DOT spokeswoman Carol Breen said that the rating system is a more useful tool for planning repairs, not judging safety. Inspectors raise safety concerns through "red flag" reports, and can even immediately close a bridge down if needed.

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