A bridge in eastern Franklin County has had its weight limit reduced after a state study found a significant crack in the structure.

The weight limit on Bend Road bridge, which crosses the Meramec River at South Highway N, was reduced from 17 tons to 12 tons, Franklin County Highway Administrator Eva Gadcke said.

This means large school buses will no longer be able to go over the bridge, Gadcke added. Smaller buses that carry fewer children may not be affected by the weight limit reduction, she said.

Meramec Valley R-III School District Superintendent Randy George says three school buses cross the bridge— two small ones and one large one.

He said he has stopped all of them from using the bridge.

While the smaller buses may be under the new weight limit, he has still decided to stop letting them cross it for the time being since there is a crack in the structure.

Using the alternate route on Highway O at Catawissa will add time to the school bus routes, but he did not know how much or how many students may be affected.

Large farm equipment and delivery trucks could also be impacted by the reduced weight limit. Tractor-trailer trucks were already prohibited from using the bridge, Gadcke said.

The fire and ambulance district do not use the bridge either, Gadcke said.

The weight reduction should not be a problem for cars.

A Missouri Department of Transportation fracture-critical study of the bridge saw that a crack in a truss on the south end of the bridge had grown. The crack was actually found in 2011, but the study found that it had gotten bigger.

The county was notified of the study findings late Thursday, Gadcke said.

The county must decide if it wants to put money into repairing a bridge that it is currently planning to replace. A similar repair was done in 2007 for about $22,000, but it would likely cost more now, Gadcke said.

Officials have been trying to secure funds through the East-West Gateway Council of Governments to replace the bridge. The county has so far received some money to acquire right of way for the bridge replacement project.

“Our number one priority is to obtain the funds to build a new Bend Bridge,” Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said.

The county is now under contract with Cochran Engineering of Union to design a new bridge and with SCI, Union to complete environmental studies for a new bridge.

“We will apply for funds to build a bridge in February,” Gadcke said. “We are shovel ready and can begin work when and if any funds to build a bridge become available.

“The bridge has outlasted itself,” Gadcke added. “It is almost 100 years old. We can hardly build anything today that will last that long.”