A July 8 inspection report commissioned by the Wawasee Property Owners Association rated the overall condition of the CSX railroad bridge over the main channel between Syracuse and Wawasee lakes as “fair” and recommended its replacement “within the next 10 years.”
Separate components of the 94-year-old bridge, which handles nearly 100 trains a day, fared worse in the study. The superstructure was rated “in the lower end of fair condition.”
The inspection, conducted June 25 by Indianapolis-based civil engineering firm USI Consultants Inc., cited several problems with the superstructure, including “significant deterioration of the concrete that encases the steel beams.”
Two troublesome events occurred when a train passed over the bridge as the crew was conducting its inspection. “A small piece of concrete did separate from the bridge,” the report said. Also, “deflection (bending) of the superstructure (steel beams)
Other problems were recorded.
“The original bridge was repaired with concrete patchwork, which covered the beams. This concrete is severely cracked, and since it does not appear to contain any reinforcement, is deteriorating and separating from the bridge. Once cracked under deflections due to the frequency, speed and impact of the trains crossing the bridge, the vibrations cause portions of the concreted to separate from the structure and fall into the channel.”
Much of the concrete fascia has fallen away, exposing the underlying steel beams, which “show evidence of heavy surface rust, yet appear to be in fair condition,” according to the report. Water was seen dripping from the beam lines and “significant wet areas along the abutments” were noted.
The report recommended “routine monitoring” of the channel for blockages and the placement of vertical clearance warning signs for boat traffic.
The report cautioned “the beams will continue to deteriorate due to the heavy moisture, and exposed steel, and can quickly fall into poor condition warranting replacement if effective repairs are not implemented.”
Pier No. 2, stationed in the middle of the channel, sports “a large vertical crack (which) extends the entire height of the pier beneath the two tracks.” Because of analytical constrictions, the crew could not discern whether the crack extended into the original pier. The pier was rated in “fair to poor” condition.
The report concluded with: “The vibrations and deflections of the structure during live load events (trains crossing) will continue to crack and dislodge portions of the concrete encapsulation. New repairs would experience the same problem, unless tied to the old portion of the structure with reinforcement and wire mesh. Additionally the steel beams will continue to rust/deteriorate, even with new encapsulation, unless they are cleaned and painted. Unfortunately there are no simple solutions to repairing/rehabilitating the structure.”
CSX inspected the bridge in April, “in accordance with the Federal Railroad Administration guidelines,” according to CSX representative Gail Lobin, and deemed it suitable for continued use.
CSX operates more than 21,000 miles of track, involving 16,000 bridges. “The company spends more than $1 billion annually and dedicates approximately 25 percent of its workforce to maintaining its critical infrastructure,” said Lobin.
It is unknown when — or whether — the bridge is slated for repairs.
To report any safety concerns about CSX bridges, crossings or other operations, call the company at (877) 835-5279 or log into the “Contact Us” section of www.csx.com.
A video taken during the inspection can be viewed in the article titled “Bridge And Components Rated ‘Fair’ To ‘Poor’” on www.inkfreenews.com or by the following video on YouTube: