A local construction contractor and resident of the Bend Road neighborhood has joined the chorus of those asking that the Bend Bridge be repaired and reopened to provide a way for residents.
“There are 150 homes in the area between Frisco Street and the bridge,” said Roger Gullet. “If there was a train derailment, we’d have no way out.”
Gullet joined Pacific Alderman Ed Gass and Meramec Valley School District Superintendent Randy George who have previously spoken out on the safety issues that residents would face in case of a train derailment.
Gullet added that train derailments and the need for evacuations are frequently reported across the United States.
“We need to get the bridge reopened,” he said.
Gullet, who operates Rich Gullet and Sons Contracting, which was founded by his father, said he repaired the bridge 20 years ago, so he is well aware of the bridge structure.
“We repaired and tightened the side rails and rebuilt the road-bed with wood,” he said. “Then the county had us add 90 tons of asphalt to the road-bed. That’s 180,000 pounds that could come off.”
Gullet said he has expressed his concerns to Franklin County officials.
“I’ve told them I would donate part of my time to work on the bridge,” he said.
Gullet also said he believes closing the bridge was more a political issue involving hard feelings between Franklin County and Pacific than a safety one.
“We read in the paper that Pacific is going ahead with the lawsuit over the Brush Creek Sewer District and one week later the bridge is closed,” he said. “The residents of that area are being punished because the county and city can’t settle their difference. This is political.”
In addition to safety concerns, residents are spending more time and fuel to get to and from work in the absence of the bridge.
Gullet said he has 80 employees who drive his construction equipment in and out of the area.
“The extra mileage is costing my company about $5,000 a month,” he said. “So I have to believe this is costly for everybody who lives in there.”
Gullet estimates that the additional miles that residents now have to drive to reach Pacific is between seven and 10 miles each way. If residents go in and out more than once a day it starts to add up.
“The loss of the bridge is a real hardship on the residents of the area,” he said. “We need to get it reopened.”