If at first you don’t succeed, try again with more tow trucks and a scuba diver.
Multiple attempts this week to remove the twisted wreckage of the Bruns Bridge from the Meramec River have shown a bit of progress, but the process is a very slow go.
County Highway Administrator Ron Williams said parts of the bridge are up, but after each pull, the tow lines have to be rerigged and adjusted for additional angles.
The slow and steady plan is to use heavy tow trucks to pull the metal skeleton of the bridge to the bank to satisfy the Department of Natural Resources’ mandate to remove the wreckage from the main river channel.
On Thursday, crews regrouped and brought in two additional trucks and other equipment to again try to pull the bridge to the bank.
More complicated rigging and a scuba diver was also used Thursday to slowly inch the bridge to the river bank.
Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton volunteered his scuba experience to give an underwater view of the bridge and helped with some of the water rigging.
The first attempt was made Tuesday morning, employing three trucks from various towing companies along the Interstate 44 corridor.
After initial rigging, a line connected to the bridge snapped and the metal began bending at other points where lines were attached.
Heavy equipment was used to level out the river bank and additional pulls throughout Tuesday dislodged the twisted structure from sediment and other debris that had collected on it. The bridge came to rest in the river May 1 after floodwaters broke it loose from its abutments.
After early assessments, it was believed the 128-year-old bridge had split into several pieces on the river bed.
Several pulling attempts from multiple points and angles have revealed the bridge is still in one piece resting in 7 to 8 feet of water.
Nearby residents watching the removal process said this is the lowest the river has been all year.
Videos of the bridge recovery attempts from Tuesday and Thursday were posted to The Missourian Facebook page and garnered more than 16,000 video views.
The videos also generated dozens of nasty and sometimes expletive-laced conversations between the viewers posting their opinions on how to properly remove the bridge, the workers and the companies on the project.
About two years ago, Williams had budgeted $200,000 for the removal of the bridge from its original position and taking out the abutments it rested on.
Now that the bridge is down, the removal will cost much less and current plans are to leave the old abutments in place.
Once the bridge is towed to the bank, either the county will cut it up and haul it off, or have a scrap metal company do it.
Williams estimates the cost to remove the bridge shouldn’t be any more than $25,000 or $30,000.
The county will then submit the receipts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for reimbursement.