An 80-year-old bridge which is in constant use needs to be fixed as a matter of urgency before it collapses with someone on it, an MLA has warned.
Many people believe the Abercorn Bridge in Newtownstewart poses a serious risk and have called on the Regional Development Minister to grant funding to strengthen it urgently.
Ten years ago the bridge — which is the entrance and exit point to the town — was changed to a single lane route.
However, it is not clear who has right of way — resulting in a few near misses as vehicles meet in the middle.
Local community association spokesman Ivor Scanlon said there are also other issues of concern.
“As well as the single lane difficulties, people are worried about the actual safety of the bridge and problems with the jointing and ironworks as it stands,” he said.
“There is a weight restriction now, but that wasn't always the case and I have photographs of big lorries laden with iron works for the construction of the bypass, on the bridge.
“We are of the mind that they would have done serious structural damage.
“The one-way system that is in place at the minute is a disaster waiting to happen.
“The difficulty is there is no protocol about who has right of way and if someone goes onto the bridge from the bypass there is a blindspot, which means they can’t see if there is already someone on it and often there are two vehicles in the middle of the bridge and angry words exchanged.”
The matter is due to be brought to the attention of tyhe minister Danny Kennedy by Assembly Member Declan McAleer.
“The one-lane bridge has been an issue of ongoing concern for local motorists for a number of years,” he said.
“The bridge is deemed by many as unsafe and there have been a number of accidents in the area where the bridge is located.
“Roads Service has advised that the Abercorn Bridge in Newtownstewart is 80 years old and has suffered a significant amount of corrosion, which has consequently reduced the strength of the bridge.
“DRD officials have further advised that, in order to address these safety concerns, interim measures of limiting the weight of vehicles using the bridge to three tonnes and restricting traffic on the bridge to one lane were introduced in 2006.
“I have been informed that Roads Service is currently investigating the cost effectiveness of refurbishing and strengthening this bridge.
“If this option proves to be good value for money and sufficient funding is available, it is hoped that the work could commence in autumn 2013.
“However, it is likely that, even after completion of the strengthening works, a permanent restriction in terms of either vehicle weight, or the number of traffic lanes, will be required.
“I hope this issue is moved onto Danny Kennedy’s schedule of major works as soon as possible, and I will continue to push for this to be made a priority as this is a matter of urgency in terms of addressing safety issues.”