Board says Pinal County can condemn bridge land - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Board says Pinal County can condemn bridge land

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Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008 7:01 pm | Updated: 11:23 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A key Pinal County bridge east of Queen Creek has been closed to traffic for more than three years after a flood scoured the bed around the bridge's supports and destabilized it in Queen Creek Wash.

The county's transportation department has, in the meantime, designed a new bridge and secured most of the funding needed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build a new link.

But there's another hurdle. The new bridge's footprint requires land from four separate property owners. Two have agreed to sell to the county, but two haven't, county officials said.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday gave the county's lawyers the ability to condemn the needed property if other negotiations break down.

"The condemnation is the last, last effort that they want to do," said Joe Pyritz, county spokesman.

Schnepf Bridge lies between Combs and Ocotillo roads on Schnepf Road.

Pyritz said he didn't know the size of the easements needed for the bridge or which property owners have so far failed to reach agreement with the county.

The bridge was a key north-south link just east of Queen Creek. The traffic jams and delay caused to emergency vehicles have been alleviated somewhat by the four-lane Ironwood-Gantzel roadway.

Opening the bridge back to traffic has taken awhile and has been the subject of lawsuits.

The structure was built in 1967 and was supported by 30-foot cylindrical piers originally buried 20 feet down in the creek bed. After the 2005 flood, considered a federal disaster, 10 feet of the creek was washed away, making the piers unsafe.

A county lawsuit claimed that several gravel-mining companies in the creek bed had altered the flow of the intermittent stream and contributed to the damaged bridge.

The county's 2007 legal claim was that the stream's pattern was altered by commercial mining "creating unnatural and excessive erosion" near the bridge.

Pyritz said that he did not know the status of the lawsuit.

Greg Stanley, the county's transportation director, has said that the goal of the county's lawsuit is to ensure that a newly constructed bridge is not affected by future gravel-mining operations in the creek bed.

Stanley was not available to comment Thursday.

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