With the recent rains and flooding, the state of Pettis County bridges has been on the minds of many. Pettis County has 163 bridges within its boundaries and the maintenance and upkeep on those structures is something that the county commissioners are constantly focusing on.
“The (Missouri Department of Transportation) inspects bridges every two years,” Eastern Commissioner Brent Hampy said. “All of our bridges are given a deficiency rating to determine their safety level and if the bridge needs to be replaced.”
During the last rating in 2012, 10 bridges in the county were rated as poor, 13 as serious and no bridges received a critical rating.
MoDOT did not complete any inspections in Pettis County in 2014 due to a lack of funding, but the county commissioners routinely inspect all bridges in Pettis County.
The county is in the process of replacing four bridges on the list: the McGee, Anderson School, Main Street and Stokley bridges.
The McGee Road Bridge has been replaced and is awaiting final inspection from MoDOT. That bridge was replaced with an aluminum box culvert structure.
The Anderson School Road Bridge spans a section of Springfork Creek. It needs the asphalt overlay and rails to be placed prior to its inspection. That process is expected to take two to three weeks and should be ready prior to the start of school.
“We have three school districts (Sedalia 200, Smithton and Cole Camp) that use the Anderson School Road Bridge every day, two times a day,” Presiding Commissioner David Dick said. “We want to have that one ready to go by the time the buses have to run on it. If the weather will cooperate it will be ready by then.”
Last Thursday, commissioners opened bids to replace the Main Street Road Bridge over Coon Creek. CNC of Pilot Grove, APAC of Columbia, Widel Construction of Blackwater, and Chester Brothers of Hannibal submitted bids.
“We haven’t awarded the contract yet because MoDOT is in the process of looking over and approving the specifications,” Dick said. “An engineer will also have to approve the bids. The process typically takes two to three weeks for their approval.”
Once the commission awards the contract, the chosen firm will have 75 working days from the start date to complete the bridge.
The commission uses more than one engineering firm when approving the submitted bids.
“There isn’t a process that allows us to competitively bid out engineering for bridge approval,” Hampy said. “But, by using two or three different companies, it creates a competitive bidding process among them which saves the taxpayers money in the long run.”
The Main Street Road Bridge is one of the most heavily traveled in the county, according to Western Commissioner Jim Marcum.
“That bridge probably sees more than 400 vehicles on it a day,” Marcum said. “Because it is used so much we probably won’t begin any construction work on it until after the (Missouri State) Fair.”
The Stokley Bridge, which runs over a tributary of Elk Creek, is also scheduled to be replaced. It is in the planning stage and the commission has not yet bid it out.
The Off System Bridge Replacement Program is used by MoDOT to determine not only which bridges need repair or replacement, but also how funding is awarded to repair bridges.
MoDOT looks at structural features including both the superstructure and substructure, decking, scouring, culverts, daily car counts and the river conditions such as the banks when rating a bridge.
The funding is a multiple-step process. Monies first come from the federal government. The state, through MoDOT, provides funding, as does the county itself.
“That is one of the reasons the recent road tax which passed in April is so important,” Dick said. “It provided us with operating money. It is also money that can be used to obtain matching funds but it still allows us to have cash on hand.
“Unless a county has the money on hand, you can’t even start to build a bridge,” Dick added. “The road tax funds not only provide us with the necessary cash, but it also allows us to have a line of credit for matching monies if they are available. It truly is good stewardship for the county.”
The county typically sets aside $350,000 to $400,000 per bridge construction project.
The recent proclamation signed by the Pettis County Commissioners and Sedalia Mayor Steve Galliher declaring the county a disaster area potentially may be used for bridge repairs as well.
Wimer Bridge is the only bridge in Pettis County that remains closed due to the flooding.
It is technically not classified as a bridge by MoDOT. A structure is determined to be a bridge if the opening that the water travels through is 20 feet or wider. Wimer has an opening of 18 feet.
“The repairs to that structure will have to come totally from county funds,” Hampy said. “There is an exception to that and it would be if FEMA steps in and assists us with the costs.”
Hampy went on to explain that Miller County has been waiting more than two years for a payment from FEMA for bridge repairs.
“It’s possible FEMA may come through to help,” Hampy said. “We’re not sure when we may see that money though.”
A FEMA representative will be in Pettis County Tuesday to inspect the county roads and bridges, Dick said.
The Wimer Bridge will remain closed indefinitely until the commissioners decide on a plan of action for the structure.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484