By Gabriel Monte, Freedom New Mexico
City officials said Wednesday the Hull Street overpass will be closed indefinitely until it’s rebuilt, replaced or removed.
A state engineer “strongly recommended” closing the bridge after an analysis of the 46-year-old structure revealed it was unsafe for travel, according to Legislative and Community Development Director Claire Burroughes.
“(The bridge is) not satisfactory weight-wise, it won’t hold the weight of the traffic,” said Clint Bunch, interim public works director.
By noon Wednesday traffic was rerouted and the bridge was blocked off with barriers by 3 p.m., Burroughes said.
The engineer was examining the bridge last week before state Department of Transportation road crews perform work to remove flaking concrete from the bridge, which crosses BNSF Railway railroad tracks. Railroad officials were concerned the inch to 2-inch sized debris could injure railroad workers or damage passing trains.
But a load-bearing analysis revealed the bridge was unsafe for road traffic and the state sent a letter to the city Wednesday recommending shutting down the bridge.
The Prince Street overpass and a gated railroad crossing at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard are the closest alternatives for crossing the tracks.
New Mexico Department of Transportation crews will work to remove flaking concrete from the bridge, according to Burroughes.
Bunch said he estimates the cost of restoring the bridge will be $4.5 million and replacing the bridge would cost between $8 million and $10 million.
He said about 4,300 vehicles cross the bridge daily.
“This is not a temporary closure, this is until it’s either repaired correctly or rebuilt or torn down (and make a regular crossing) there’s several options,” he said. “But it’s not going to be traveled on until we get any (one) of those things done.”
Burroughes said the bridge has undergone repairs every five years in the last 15 years.
She said the city will schedule a public meeting next week addressing questions regarding the bridge’s closure.
The bridge serves as the primary access to the city from southwest Clovis.
Lovita Hale, owner of the One Stop Feed Shop located on the south end of the bridge, said city or state officials did not tell her the bridge was going to be closed.
“This is a total surprise to us,” she said. “It concerns me that somebody didn’t have the courtesy to say anything.”
She said a majority of her customers use the bridge to reach her place.
“It’s definitely going to be awkward for a while,” she said. “I just shudder to think of the lost business that could happen.”