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Meet the worst bridge in Utah

Posted at 5:45 PM, Aug 10, 2023

EDEN, Utah — The worst bridge in Utah sits in Zach Smith’s front yard.

“Definitely falling apart,” Smith said. “It ain't got much life left in it.”

The Postal Service says the bridge is in Eden, though some maps place it in the community of Liberty. It sits on 4100 North over a fork of the Ogden River. It connects Eden with Ogden.

Smith said he once went into Weber County offices to get a building permit. He heard staff in the office talking about his address.

“And they said they were replacing this bridge in [2023] because it was the worst bridge in the state,” Smith said.

Federal data confirms that. Built in 1972, the bridge scores poor in multiple inspection metrics.

It’s one of thousands of deteriorating bridges from coast to coast found by a Scripps News review of inspection data. The recent infrastructure bill pushed by the Biden Administration and passed by the Congress will repair or replace many of them, but that will take years and cost billions of dollars.

At what’s referred to as the Liberty bridge, you don’t need an engineering degree to spot the issues.

From the stream bed, which is dry this time of year, you can see exposed rebar and cables, reducing the load the bridge can support. On the deck, the curbs are disintegrating. That makes it less likely the guardrails could prevent cars from rolling off the bridge.

On Tuesday, crews from the Utah Department of Transportation and private consultants were at the bridge, trying to determine what a new one would look like.

Becky Nix, the bridge management engineer at UDOT, said the bridge sits in a part of Weber County with a recreation plan, and the replacement could have a sidewalk or bicycle lane.

The replacement should be completed by the end of 2024 at a cost of $2.4 million. The federal government will pay 93% of that, Nix said. Weber County owns the bridge and will pay the rest. (UDOT manages bridge replacement for local governments.)

“This is really critical,” Nix said. “This transportation bill that has come through has brought a big influx of funding.”

Utah is receiving $45 million a year for five years. Traditionally, the federal government has emphasized bridges on interstates or U.S. highways, Nix said, but the new infrastructure bill allowed for spending on locally-owned bridges.

Nix said UDOT has been identifying local bridges that need fixes or replacements. Such bridge projects are in the works in Summit and Beaver counties and the cities of Taylorsville and Sandy, she said.

Smith joked that he’d be alright with the Liberty bridge being scrapped and the road closed at his driveway so he doesn’t get so much traffic. But, generally, he likes bridge improvements.

“Well, they're gonna need to be replaced for sure,” Smith said. “Yeah. Can’t have them falling apart.”

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