Updated 04/27/2012 06:21 PM
Crash causes traffic snare, raises bridge safety concerns
A portion of Interstate 81 North closed after a crash at one of the overpasses in Cortland County. The accident made for a difficult day in Preble. Tamara Lindstrom spoke with neighbors who saw a flood of speeding traffic and raised concerns over bridge safety.
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PREBLE, N.Y. -- Thursday evening saw a rare rush of activity in the Town of Preble.
"I was just getting ready to close when the fire whistle went off," said Thomas Fox, owner of Uncle Tom's Family Grocery. "We didn't see any trucks leaving and our squad went out. That's when I realized that somebody probably hit that bridge. This is not the first time."
Officials say a piece of heavy equipment carried on a truck struck the bridge over Preble Road, causing serious damage and a detour that would route a deluge of rushing vehicles through the quiet town.
"Havoc on this road here," Fox said. "Kept me up all night long with these trucks going by my house."
"When I came down, then I saw all the traffic. Then as everyone has come in today, we've heard more and more," said Postal Service employee Marilyn Fink.
"Parents were concerned about going through the roadblock and we were concerned about how the buses would run. We do have before and after school programs," said Elizabeth Spaulding of the Preble Children's Center.
Most residents we spoke with said once authorities reopen the bridge, they're sure it will be safe. But others aren't taking any chances.
"I drive over that bridge to go shopping from here, so I'm just going to take a different route," Spaulding said.
People who live near the bridge say it has needed repairs for years.
According to a report by the State Department of Transportation, the bridge is listed as "structurally deficient" and "functionally obsolete." It was last inspected in May of 2010, when it received a rating of 3.73 out of a possible seven. However, the report notes the low score does not mean the bridge is unsafe.
"There are a lot of families down that road there," Fox said. "Our church and our post office and everything is headed right that way. That's always been kind of a spot you have to watch."
One that residents hope will see more attention as workers finish repairs.
The highway did open back up to traffic late Friday afternoon. A representative from the DOT was not available to comment.
To see the New York State Highway Bridge Data, visit www.dot.ny.gov.