Future uncertain for Rasmus Enge Memorial bridge
Kyle Clayton / Petersburg Pilot
Patchwork covers a broken plank on the Rasmus Enge Memorial Bridge.
The Rasmus Enge Memorial bridge on Sing Lee Alley might prove to be beyond repair after officials pull planks and inspect the stringers underneath.
Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said the borough currently isn’t allowing its garbage trucks to drive over the bridge and told other large trucks not to cross the bridge either.
Giesbrecht said the bridge has been re-planked many times over the years and that process weakens the stringers—boards the bridge planks are nailed to.
“It’s like Swiss cheese,” Giesbrecht said. “You pound a bunch of holes in them. What we’re afraid of is that if we take all of the boards up and replace them are there going to be enough boards left underneath for the planks to stick to?”
“We’ve been band aiding and patching it to try and keep it going,” Borough Public Works Director Karl Hagerman said.
The borough budgeted $60,000 to re-plank the bridge and buy a few new stringers. That price is a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $1.3 to $1.7 million cost of replacing the bridge—a project Hagerman suspects will likely have to happen.
But the funding is not currently within reach.Hagerman said the Petersburg Indian Association offered to apply for grant money on behalf of the community so the borough held off on funding. But so far, grant money from PIA hasn’t materialized.
Bruce Jones, PIA’s Tribal Administrator, said the borough didn’t provide information, including concrete plans and permits, to his organization in time to submit the grant application.
“They missed the last deadline which was the end of June,” Jones said.
Hagerman said the borough wants to continue working with the tribe. Next spring a grant application can be submitted along with an answer from a funding source.
The Alaska Department of Transportation inspected the Birch Street Bridge and the Rasmus Enge Memorial bridge this year. ADOT didn’t change the weight rating on the Rasmus Enge bridge but shut down the Birch Street bridge.
“I’m expecting the same thing to happen with the Rasmus Enge Memorial bridge,” Hagerman said.
The borough is trying to decide how best to go about making repairs in the meantime.
The bridge was originally built in 1945 and reconstructed in 1976.