7 On Your Side investigation finds Bronx bridge in 'Swiss cheese' condition

MOTT HAVEN, The Bronx (WABC) -- The heavily trafficked 138th Street overpass in the Bronx is in an alarming state of disrepair, according to two structural engineers who say the bridge needs immediate attention.

The main support columns of the four-lane span over the Major Deegan Expressway look like "Swiss cheese" with huge holes throughout the steel girders from rust.

"The condition is very obvious, very severe and very widespread," said David Peraza, a structural engineer who analyzed video of the bridge for 7 On Your Side Investigates.

Peraza, who has 35 years of experience in structural engineering, said the deterioration of the bridge is alarming and the worst he's ever seen.

"If these columns were to fail, the bridge above them would collapse, and it would take out both the bridge above and the highway below," Peraza said.

7 On Your Side also showed video of the bridge to Anil Agrawal, a City College civil engineering professor, who expressed concern about "any kind of abnormal loadings, such as very heavy trucks going over the bridge."

"Urgent action is needed to at least analyze if the bridge's columns pose any safety risk," he said.

The state-owned bridge has been in poor condition since the 1990s. It is rated S-D, meaning "structurally deficient" -- not necessarily unsafe, but its load-bearing strength could be compromised.

There are 86 structurally deficient bridges in New York City, according to a 2017 report by the state comptroller: Among them, the Alexander Avenue Bridge in the Bronx and the Brooklyn Bridge.

"The bridge was recently inspected, and the inspection determined it is completely safe for motorists," said Spokesperson Joe Morrissey from the New York State Department of Transportation in response to our investigation. "Its condition is being closely monitored out of an abundance of caution with regular maintenance, including steel repairs on the columns scheduled for next month."

He said any bridge that poses a risk to motorists would be closed immediately. The bridge is scheduled for a complete rehab in two years.

7 On Your Side Investigates has requested a copy of the bridge's recent inspection report but was told to file a Freedom of Information Request to see if it would be made available.

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