There is disagreement between Franklin County and the city of Pacific in terms of the best alignment of a proposed new bridge.
The one-lane Bend Road bridge in east Franklin County could be a liability especially when it comes to the eight school buses traveling over it, officials say.
“It is the worst bridge in Franklin County; I think it is the worst bridge in the state of Missouri,” said Eva Gadcke, Franklin County’s highway administrator. “It’s 98 percent deficient.”
County Counselor Mark Vincent even suggested that it should be closed immediately.
“I don’t want to be the one responsible for a school bus falling in that river,” Vincent said.
Approximately $400,000 was spent rehabilitating the bridge, which crosses the Meramec River, in 1993.
Vincent said he understands that Pacific may have a preference on the bridge’s location, but the county’s duty is to make the bridge safe.
But it could be several years before a replacement bridge is constructed.
The Franklin County Commission discussed the project this week.
The commission on Dec. 11 is expected to consider approval of an order to make application for $3.6 million in federal funds for the project.
Those funds will be sought through the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, and the county would cover the other $1.4 million.
An exact alignment of the new bridge has not been determined, but county officials say the current location cannot be used since the bridge runs into a cliff.
The current alignment creates a 90-degree angle with Missouri Highway N, and this has caused tractor-trailers to get stuck because they are unable to make the sharp turn.
The county’s proposed alignment just east would still connect with Highway N. Moreover, Gadcke said the county’s proposed location is the most financially feasible option.
“(Pacific officials) would prefer that we would move over and connect to Old Gray Summit Road,” Gadcke said.
The cost to tie the bridge into Old Gray Summit Road could be up to $13 million compared to the county’s proposed location, which would cost about $5 million, Gadcke said.
County Engineer Joe Feldmann said development of Pacific is moving to the west so the people in Pacific are interested in taking the bridge to the west.
“We want to keep the road where it is; they would like to move it to the west where the new development is,” Feldmann said.
Feldmann added, “There’s a lot of interest where this thing is going to tie in because it is the only bridge in this area right now.”
Pacific Alderman Jerry Eversmeyer said he thinks connecting the bridge to Old Gray Summit Road on the west is a better option for a few reasons.
Eversmeyer said it is a better alignment because it eliminates some bad turns and does not have houses right by the roadway as he says is the case with Highway N. Once the bridge is changed from its current one lane to two, it will create more traffic and a potentially dangerous situation when those residents back out of their homes onto the highway, Eversmeyer said.
Moreover, Eversmeyer said the Old Gray Summit Road connection has better access to Highway 44.
Despite the differences in view, Eversmeyer said he does not see the issue becoming a big point of contention between the county and the city of Pacific.
Ultimately, he said, it is up to the county.
“It’s a county bridge, not a city bridge,” Eversmeyer said
There are about 1,800 cars a day on the bridge, which was built in 1916, Gadcke said.
Connecting with Old Gray Summit Road costs more because it runs farther across the floodplain, requiring more roadway to be built, county officials say.
Also, tying into Old Gray Summit Road would require significantly more right of way, Gadcke said.
Gadcke noted that she recently applied for a $13 million federal TIGER grant for the Old Gray Summit Road connection, but it was denied. Therefore, she thinks the cost must be brought down to secure federal funds for the project this time.
Likewise, the county was also denied federal dollars through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 for the project.
The county would likely know in May 2013 whether it was approved for the federal funds, and the deadline to apply is in March.
The earliest the new bridge could be done would be late 2014. Environmental review for the project has already started.
Second District Commissioner Ann Schroeder said the county has run out of time to replace the bridge.
Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer agreed, saying, “We’ve got a huge problem.”