Slow and steady wins the race, or in this case, gets the bridge out of the river.
After a rocky start, the efforts to pull the remains of Bruns Bridge out of the Meramec River are now going well.
As of Tuesday, County Highway Administrator Ron Williams said portions of the tangled metal structure had been pulled over and lifted onto the bank where county crews have begun cutting the bridge into manageable pieces with cutting torches.
“They have about half of the bridge out so far,” he said. “They are using the excavator to move the pieces and as the bridge gets lighter, the pulling is getting easier. With less weight, it should go quicker.”
Williams said he’s hopeful the remaining piences will be out by Friday, but with intermittent rain in the forecast all week, it could be longer.
He credits I-44 Towing for its perseverance in making several attempts to get the bridge to move from the river bed and reiterated the option of using a crane was never in play.
“There are power lines on one side of the bridge that would be in the way,” Williams explained. “I talked to a structural engineer and he said the new bridge wouldn’t hold the weight of a crane.”
He noted that the ground in the area where the heavy tow trucks are working would be too soft to support a crane and even if a lift was made there would then be no place to stack the pieces as they came out.
“There was also about 4 feet of sediment on top of the bridge structure underwater,” Williams said. “They couldn’t pull it straight up. I’d be afraid of the crane toppling over trying to lift that much extra weight.”
Thus far the recovery process has cost the county about $20,000, which should be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) once all is said and done.
Williams said I-44 Towing bid $13,500 for the job and an additional $6,000 is being paid to a boat operator for time and equipment.
Once the bridge pieces are cut up, Grossman Iron and Steel, St. Louis, will bring in trailers for the pieces to be placed in and hauled away for scrap.
The county will then collect the money for the scrap metal.
Most of the bridge structure remained in one piece, but after it was further inspected by a diver, with visibility at about 2 feet, it seems there are some beams that have become embedded in the river bottom like piers.
Williams said further underwater assessments are planned this week to determine how much and what may be the best approach to remove the rest of the debris from the river channel.