MoDOT officials provide info about 3 bridge replacement projects in Saline County

Friday, March 13, 2009
From left, Preston Kramer, project manager for the MoDOT Safe and Sound Bridge program in this area, and Merle Dierking discuss the project during an open house held Thursday, March 12, at the Municipal Court Building in Marshall. Six of the 17 bridges that will be replaced in Saline County by 2014 are on Route 127. (Marcia Gorrell/Democrat-News)

Saline County will be getting 17 new bridges -- including three in the next year -- through the Missouri Department of Transportation's Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program, an "aggressive, no-frills" approach that is expected to replace 802 of Missouri's bridges by Oct. 31, 2014.

"In four years we're going to have a lot of new bridges and we're getting them cheaply because we're cutting the fat," explained Preston Kramer, project manager of the North Central District Safe and Sound Team. "The Safe and Sound program is something that I'm very excited about personally."

Kramer and area engineer Mike McGrath were in Marshall Thursday, March 12, at the Municipal Court Building for a two-hour open house to discuss three Saline County bridge projects that have just been awarded to Phillips Grading and Construction of Boonville for $1.2 million.

The three bridges and the number of days the roads will be closed during each project are Route YY over Finney Creek (60 days); Route 127 over Salt Fork Creek (75 days); and the Route 127 bridge over Blackwater River (90 days).

The existing bridge deck on each will be replaced, but the existing substructures, which are still in good condition, will be reused. The work is expected to start some time after April 6 and will be completed by May 1, 2010, although the exact dates the bridges will close have not yet been set.

Information and photo provided by MoDOT officials at a public briefing Thursday, March 12, in Marshall about the replacement of the bridge on Highway 127 over Salt Fork Creek in Saline County.
Detour map provided by Missouri Department of Transportation official showing how motorists can adjust their travel while the Highway 127 bridge over Salt Fork Creek is being replaced. The detour includes Highway 20 and U.S. Highway 65.

"We've given the contactor some flexibility as to when he does these bridges," explained Kramer. "Here within the next couple months we'll sit down with the contractor and see his schedule."

What is not flexible, however, is the number of days each bridge is shut down for construction.

"We've looked at each bridge individually and we've calculated how long we think it will take to construct if the contractor sets the bridge down and works continuously," said Kramer. "Each bridge has got its own timer -- the minute he closes that bridge that timer starts."

If the bridge is not completed within the prescribed time period then the contractor is fined, according to Kramer.

Because of the flexibility in the contracts, small local contractors can compete with larger companies from Kansas City and St. Louis.

Information and photo provided by MoDOT officials at a public briefing Thursday, March 12, in Marshall about the replacement of the bridge on Highway YY over Finney Creek in Saline County.
Detour map provided by Missouri Department of Transportation official showing how motorists can adjust their travel while the Highway YY bridge over Finney Creek is being replaced. The detour includes Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 65.

"The way we set up these contracts, we've provided a playing field where the small guy can come in and underbid the big players, even if he only has one bridge crew. It's kind of a win-win. We get all of these bridges done for the lowest dollar, but it was a local contractor that got both of these jobs," said Kramer, who explained that a bid was awarded for bridges in Schuyler County that are expected to get under construction in the next month.

Another way the statewide Safe and Sound project cuts the fat is that the construction is going to "begin and end at the bridges."

"We're not going to address the roadway 1,000 feet in either direction like we used to," said Kramer.

The bridges, which are primarily on minor highways in the state, will also be the same size as the highway, instead of 40-foot bridges" on 20- foot roadways, he explained.

Information and photo provided by MoDOT officials at a public briefing Thursday, March 12, in Marshall about the replacement of the bridge on Highway 127 over Blackwater River in Saline County.
Detour map provided by Missouri Department of Transportation official showing how motorists can adjust their travel while the Highway 127 bridge over Blackwater River is being replaced. The detour includes Interstate 70 and routes D and K.

With these projects, there won't be a bypass or an assigned detour during the time the roadway is shut down.

"We are going to post a recommended detour on our Web site, if they want to know what we are recommending as the best way to get around these bridges," he said, adding that because they are smaller roads, most of the local traffic will already know the best way to get around the bridge.

"We're trying to minimize the inconvenience as much as possible by making sure the contractor actually does the work as soon as he closes the road. What we're asking is for folks to please be patient. Most of our bridges will only take between 45 to 90 days," said Kramer. "Once they are done being inconvenienced for a little while, they are going to have a brand-new bridge they can enjoy for the rest of their lives."

The Safe and Sound bridge project replaces Missouri's aging bridges within MoDOT's existing budget. It will sell bonds to pay for the project, with annual payments of approximately $50 million. It will also use roughly one-third of the federal bridge funds received each year to make those payments.

"We're falling behind, we've got to catch up," said Kramer, who explained that a recent inspection found 1,100 bridges MoDOT considered functionally obsolete and/or structurally deficient, but not unsafe.

"This 802 does not address all of the bridges we have statewide that are near the end of their lives, but this takes a big bite out of it," said Kramer, who said that Saline and Carroll counties have the most bridges on the list in the North Central district. "You are going to see a notable change (in Saline County) especially on Highway 127, we're catching six bridges."

Statewide, the first Safe and Sound bridges are under construction now and should be completed by May, Kramer said.

More information on the Safe and Sound program, a map of the bridges that will be replaced and the recommended detours for each bridge can be found at www.modot.org/safeandsound/

Contact Marcia Gorrell at marshallag@socket.net

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