By Thomas Garcia: Freedom New Mexico
A recreational vehicle struck a bridge expansion joint Thursday on U.S. 54 near Logan, creating a 2-foot by 6-foot gap in the westbound lane that forced the bridge to be shut down for four hours, state transportation officials said.
Crews were able to reopen the eastbound lane to traffic at 4 p.m. Repairs were expected to be completed later Thursday night, officials said.
“The bridge will be limited to one lane of traffic until repairs are completed,” said Carlos Gonzales, NMDOT maintenance supervisor.
A steel plate was welded over the gap until the joint can be replaced, he said.
“I was driving over the bridge when I saw the joint sticking out about 8-to-10 inches above the road,” said Bill Lange of Wisconsin, who was crossing the bridge about noon. “I had no time to react. The truck was slightly hit, but my trailer took the brunt of the blow. I’m just grateful nobody else was on the bridge when it happened.”
Some travelers parked on the side of the road at the U.S. 54 and State Road 469 junction south of Logan awaiting the bridge’s reopening.
Between 5,800 and 6,000 vehicles pass over the bridge daily, according to NMDOT Assistant District Engineer Heather Sandoval.
The bridge crosses the Canadian River and is the primary route used by thousands of vacationers and residents to get to Ute Lake, and is a main connector throughout the Midwest.
“The bridge is structurally sound,” Sandoval said. “A joint popped out on the westbound traffic lane. All the joints are scheduled to be replaced within two weeks.
The bridge is one of four steel-truss bridges that were ordered to be inspected by Gov. Bill Richardson following the collapse in August of a similarly built bridge in Minneapolis.
The bridge received a “fair” rating, which indicates all primary structural elements are sound but may have minor loss, cracking, spalling or scour, according to federal guidelines for bridge inspection.
When Lange’s fifth-wheel camper struck the joint, its axle was bent, causing the trailer to veer into the oncoming lane, Lange said.
“It bent the axle and broke the springs,” Lange said. “We are getting it patched up to get to Tucumcari. But the trailer will have to be loaded on a flatbed and taken to Albuquerque to be fixed properly.”