By Josh Mitchell

Missourian Staff Writer

County officials on Tuesday got a step closer to replacing the worst bridge in Franklin County.

The County Commission approved contracting with Cochran Engineering of Union to apply for $3.6 million in federal surface transportation funds.

Replacing the Bend Road bridge in east Franklin County is estimated to cost about $5 million, and Franklin County would cover the remaining $1.4 million if it receives the grant.

The firm will apply to the East-West Gateway Council of Governments for the funds, and it should be known next summer whether the county will get the money.

If the application is approved, the project would be added to the annual transportation improvement program through the East-West Gateway.

Cochran will be paid $5,000 to do the application, and if it is unsuccessful in getting the money, the county will be refunded its fee.

If the application is successful, Cochran will then automatically get the design and construction engineering contract for the project, and that would be up to $500,000.

Gadcke said she is “extremely excited” that the county is moving forward with replacing the bridge, noting that in 17 years there have been numerous attempts to get funding for the project.

“This is really a step forward for us as a county,” Gadcke said, adding that it could be the worst bridge in the state.

Once the bridge, which crosses the Meramec River, is replaced, it will bring all of the county bridges that cross rivers up to date, she said.

Gadcke could not predict whether the Bend Road bridge could continue to remain open until it is replaced.

The plan is that the new bridge would go just east of the current one.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is scheduled to inspect all of the county’s bridges next year.

Gadcke said the county is seeking to have the inspections done earlier in the year because of the Bend Road bridge problems.