The new bridge over the Meramec River at Pacific is nearing completion as crews constructed the railings last week.

The bridge is slated to open to vehicle traffic in May, according to Ron Williams, Franklin County highway administrator.

Last week, construction crews installed green reinforcing steel for the barrier curb that will line each side of the new bridge. The barrier curb will be 2 feet, 3 inches high and will be just over 1-foot wide.

The new bridge replaces the old one-lane through truss Bend Bridge that was built in 1918 to provide a crossing for residents on the southwest side of the river to reach Pacific.

Once the bridge span is completed, the roadway entrances at each end of the bridge will be built, Williams said.

The alignment of the new bridge connects Bend Road on the south and Highway N on the north, at an alignment that eliminates the right-angle turn north of the bridge that will allow large vehicles to drive directly onto the bridge.

“The biggest beneficiaries of the new bridge will be the fire trucks and large school buses that will be able to cross,” said Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer.

The south entrance to the bridge will be an S curve about 1,100 feet in length from the bridge to where it ties into the existing Bend Road south of the bridge.

Crews also are grading the road alignment on the fill area that contractors brought in to raise the south approach to the bridge to the level of the new bridge, which is higher than the low-lying farmland on the south side of the river.

The new bridge was funded with a matching $4.5 million grant, with the federal government paying the bulk of the cost and Franklin County paying the match.

To date, it is the largest bridge construction project ever undertaken by Franklin County.

Lehman Construction Company, California, Mo., constructed the bridge. Cochran Engineering designed and engineered the structure.

Griesheimer and other officials broke ground on the new bridge Oct. 7, 2016.

Construction was halted temporarily in May 2017 when the Meramec River rose and washed away the temporary dam built for construction vehicles.

The rising water raised concerns of local residents, but Griesheimer said the new bridge was designed to withstand the forces and loads created by floodwater.

“The possibility of flood pressure against the bridge was considered during the design of the bridge,” said Bradford Dunagan, Cochran engineer. “Horizontal forces created by current and/or drift against the beams and vertical uplift pressures have both been considered.”

Griesheimer said he asked Dunagan to review the design because he wanted citizens to know that future floods would not impact the structural safety of the bridge.