State closes Route 66 bridge

Dave Gragg

Travelers looking to get their kicks will have to take a detour off old Route 66 for the immediate future.
On Friday, the state Department of Transportation closed one of the road’s bridges over the Revuelto Creek between Tucumcari and San Jon, because it was unsafe to travel over.
Signs detour motorists onto Interstate 40 around the bridge on exits 343 and 356.
A team of three state bride engineers out of Santa Fe decided to close the bridge July 14 after examining results of tests done July 1, said Assistant District IV Engineer Peter McDonald out of Las Vegas, N.M.
The district office received that letter Friday, he said.
McDonald said he did not think motorists cruising Route 66 during Tucumcari’s July 11 Route 66 celebration or July 17 solar car race were in danger.
The bridge, constructed in 1950, simply reached the end of its 50-year life span, McDonald said.
“At this time, we are evaluating what funding sources may be available and the subsequent design work involved with replacing the bridge,” McDonald said.
The state did not have any money set aside to replace the bridge, even though it was three years past its design life, he said.
By federal law, all bridges must be inspected every two years. If a problem is noted, it may be inspected more often than that, he said.
District bridge inspector Carlos Martinez said he had changed the bridge’s inspection schedule to at least once a year.
The district had lowered the bridge’s load limit to 17 tons and the speed limit lowered from 55 mph to 45 mph in an effort to prolong its life, he said.
“I just think the poor bridge has served its purpose,” he said.
Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Virginia Wright said Route 66 is an important access road for local people to get to their property, in addition to the historic and tourism value of the bridge and Route 66.
“We need to find a way to get some funding,” she said. “It’s very, very important to get that bridge open.”