Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said construction of the new Bend Bridge would not be held hostage by a Pacific alderman’s 11th-hour call for design change.
The county has received bids and is set to award a contract this week for construction of the $4.5 million project.
Griesheimer told The Missourian he received a phone call Aug. 3 from Mayor Jeff Palmore who informed him of an action by the board of aldermen the previous evening calling for a pedestrian lane to be added to the new bridge.
“It can’t be done at this late date,” Griesheimer said. “We’d have to scrap the whole project. We’d lose the funding and the money would go back into the pot to be distributed in other areas. We’d be 20 years out getting funding again.”
The 11th hour call for change occurred Aug. 2 as Pacific aldermen discussed the need to convey a three-tenths of a mile strip of South Highway N, located in the approach to the new bridge, back to MoDOT.
The strip had accidentally been deeded to Pacific, even though it is outside the city limits. The new bridge design includes rebuilding Highway N from the bridge up to the city limits, which includes this strip of land.
Alderman Mike Bates made a motion to convey the property back to MoDOT so it could be deeded to the county, but Steve Myers asked that the city consider withholding the transfer of ownership unless the county agreed to install a pedestrian lane on the bridge.
Myers said the Magi Foundation had been in talks with Franklin County to save the Old Bridge as a safe pedestrian crossing of the Meramec River but that had not been successful. He said a state law stipulates that if a known crossing is desired that provides safe crossing in the construction of a new bridge the builder must comply.
Bates amended his motion to stipulate that MoDOT require Franklin County to include the state-required pedestrian crossing on the new bridge.
Griesheimer called the demand outrageous.
He said approved pavement plans for the bridge include a 2-foot buffer on each side of the vehicle lanes on the new bridge, which could be adjusted to create a narrow walkway. The bridge could be striped to allow a 3-foot pedestrian path on one side.
“We told them months ago that we’d be willing to do that,” Griesheimer said.
Myers said he was not aware that the county had agreed to create a 3-foot pedestrian lane but it didn’t matter because safety regulations call for bridge pedestrian lanes to be 6 feet wide.
“We want a 6-foot pedestrian crossing, walled off from traffic,” Myers said. “That’s what we want. It’s in state statute. They have to provide it if you ask for it.”
Griesheimer said MoDOT had approved the plans for the bridge, which is designed to state and federal guidelines.
“This had to pass muster to gain approval by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments (EWGW),” Griesheimer said. “If Pacific tries to stop this project we’re probably looking at another lawsuit.”
The commissioner said the county intends to go forward with awarding the contract on the bridge.
He said the county would identify exactly where the strip of land is located and could complete the project up to that point and leave an unimproved strip of roadway at Pacific’s doorstep.
“We’ll build the bridge and build a new road up to that point and not reach the city limits,” Griesheimer said. “If they want a no-man’s-land strip of road there at the city limits that’s not improved, that’s what we’ll do.”