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County takes on bridge maintenance

RIGGINS – The Salmon River Road’s blacktop leads to the Manning Crevice Bridge, where construction of a new span is anticipated this fall. Idaho County has reached an agreement with federal agencies on maintenance, county commissioner Jim Chmelik said, under which the county has “reluctantly agreed to take over maintenance on the old bridge.”

“But if the project doesn’t go through, maintenance would go back to the Forest Service,” Chmelik said Thursday, Jan. 9.

The Manning Crevice Bridge helps connect the boat ramp at Vinegar Creek to civilization. It was built in 1934 and is in poor condition. As it stands, the approximate 250-foot suspension bridge requires larger vehicles, such as log trucks, to squeeze through a tight turning radius. The proposed rebuild, which was unveiled at a public meeting in June 2013, is intended to provide a 70-year service life.

The plan for the new span, approved last year, calls for a single lane, 16 feet wide including shoulders on a base 23 feet wide, to be suspended from a single tower, 79 feet tall, on the north bank. Compared to a conventional bridge, the unusual design may contribute to higher maintenance costs as the bridge ages. It was chosen, in part, to cost less to build than other designs and, in part, for aesthetics, according to project documents.

When the design was announced, Chmelik said the commission anticipates the bridge will require minimal maintenance during the first 30 years of its lifespan, but the upkeep could be tough for future generations to keep pace with – especially if Congress decides to cut off funding for rural roads without providing a pathway to self-sufficiency for the counties that hold vast public lands.

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