Franklin County Commission

The Franklin County Commission Tuesday approved a contract for one of the most expensive county bridge replacement projects in recent years.

According to the commission order, KCI Construction Company, Inc., based in St. Louis, has been awarded the contract of the $1,481,000 replacement of the Shawnee Ford Road bridge over the Bourbeuse River about 11 miles northwest of Sullivan. 

The bridge replacement is being funded by federal money as was approved in 2015 by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments.  

At that time, the federal money totaled $1.1 million, with Franklin County contributing $272,000 for the project.

The contract with KCI Construction will include constructing a new three span bridge consisting of two 90-foot sections and one 120-foot section. 

The work and materials include placing fill, grading, demolition of the existing structure, prestressed concrete girder bridge, reinforced box culvert extension and associated roadway work together with any incidental work needed on the project.

Although a specific start date is not listed in the contract, the project completion date is set at June 28, 2019.

The bidder agrees that, should they fail to complete the work within the time specified, they can be fined $1,100 per day over the deadline.

Surprise

Engineering work on the project began in early 2017. At that time, the bridge was believed to be approaching 100 years old and was scheduled to undergo thorough documentation.  

As is custom on bridges that are deemed historical, a detailed process of photographing and archiving the structure had begun in earnest.

According to County Highway Administrator Ron Williams, the Shawnee Ford bridge, which was originally believed to have been constructed in the 1920s, is actually only about 50 years old.

Williams explained as the research continued aerial photographs of the area were found from 1954, which showed no bridge structure at all in place.

Then, photos of the same area from the early 1960s show a bridge in that location.

The group doing the preliminary work, SCI Engineering, also found a Washington Citizen article from 1961 showing Franklin County purchased the steel trusses for a bridge from St. Francois County for $2,500.

Williams said the steel trusses were then rebuilt on new piers and road decking constructed by the county in the early 1960s.

The trusses themselves are believed to be from the 1920s and were part of a bridge over the Big River, which was abandoned by the state when a new bridge was built on Highway 8 in that area.

The Citizen article states Franklin County Highway crews traveled to St. Francois County to dismantle the 190-foot section of trusses and transported them back to the Japan area in southwest Franklin County.

Williams said SCI was originally tipped off to the origins of the bridge by a passerby who stopped just to see what was going on and informed the crews that the bridge’s lifespan was not as long as once thought.

Also, upon inspection of the piers under the decking, it was concluded the concrete looked much newer than nearly 100 years old.

In addition to the younger age of the bridge, Williams said plans were found detailing a major renovation and altering of the original truss system, which also declassified it as historical.

With the historical issues as seemingly nonfactors in the project, Williams estimates the project moved up by two to three months and saved the county more than $5,000.