A survey by Latvia State Roads has found that 45% of the country’s 2,000 bridges are in need of major repairs. At present, authorities are managing the worst cases by restricting heavier vehicle access, closing off lanes and placing nets under the spans to catch debris.
The LA.LV Latvian news website reports that one viaduct on the A2 Vidzeme motorway, popularly known as the Valley of Sorrows, has "large holes, crumbling reinforced concrete and rusty fixtures".Â
This will have to be demolished if repairs are not carried out in the next two years.
Andris Berzins, chairman of the Latvian Road Builders Association, told LA.LV: "Most of our bridges were built in the 1960s. And they are all made of prefabricated reinforced concrete. The lifetime of this type of bridge is about 40 years. After that, overhaul should be done … But [the attitude is] it’s fine – nobody has fallen, nobody is dead, let’s postpone the repairs for another five years."
A spokesperson for Latvian State Roads said all state-owned bridges are inspected annually and, if necessary, in-depth inspections involving additional experts, adding that "if a bridge really comes to a point where it becomes dangerous and endangers road safety, then of course the bridge would be closed".
Central government owns 969 of Latvia’s bridges. Others are in the hands of municipal authorities, and the LA.LV report raised the question of how often these are inspected.
According to Latvian State Roads, construction work is planned for about 40 bridges. The largest are the Daugavpils Bypass Bridge across the Daugava (pictured), the Belarusian Border Bridge across the Aiviekste, and the Estonian Border bridge across the Kaupupe River.
Image: The Daugavpils Bypass Bridge across the Daugava (Alinco/CC BY-SA 3.0)