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Cabela’s traffic may stress bridge

Mon., Nov. 5, 2007, midnight

The Appleway Bridge over the Spokane River, to be replaced over the next several years, is in worse shape than Spokane County engineers thought.

They’re worried about traffic the new Cabela’s sporting goods superstore in Post Falls may add to the faulty span.

The bridge connects Spokane County’s East Appleway Avenue with Kootenai County’s West Seltice Way, near Stateline, Idaho.

“One concern that we have is the axle rating on these large motor homes that might be accessing Cabela’s,” county engineer Bob Brueggeman said.

He noted a traffic study predicted as many as 200 customers a day might cross the faulty bridge near Stateline during the store’s peak business hour.

County commissioners imposed weight restrictions on the bridge in January after engineers discovered two metal joints between deck sections were corroded, preventing the bridge from flexing when it expands and contracts.

Now, Brueggeman said, cracks have appeared in metal parts similar to the pintle and gudgeon of a household door hinge. So he is asking county commissioners to ban all vehicles except passenger cars and pickups.

Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for Nov. 13.

Brueggeman said Cabela’s managers have agreed to direct suppliers to keep their trucks off the bridge.

Currently, regular trucks are limited to 18 tons, tractor-trailer rigs to 28 tons and trucks towing trailers to 34 tons. The limits vary according to how much weight each axle carries.

The Appleway Bridge uses the same design as the Harvard Road Bridge, about three miles west, that failed in 1992.

Brueggeman said one of Harvard Road Bridge’s deck sections dropped 1 to 2 inches when a hinge failed. The section came to rest on a support pillar.

No one was injured and no vehicle was damaged, but Brueggeman said a motorist complained about a “bump” in the roadway. The collapse required a major repair until the bridge could be replaced.

Construction of a new Appleway Bridge is expected to take 1 1/2 years and probably won’t start before 2010. Environmental issues could delay the construction, Brueggeman said.

He said the project is expected to cost $16 million to $18 million, depending on whether the new bridge has two or four lanes. About 80 percent of the cost is to be paid with federal money passed through the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Brueggeman was philosophical about his department’s inability to collect mitigation fees from the Cabela’s project.

“We always wish that we could do that,” he said. “But, being in a different state, the process isn’t set up to allow us to do that.”

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