A World War II-era bridge over Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks near here will be replaced and a dangerous curve near the bridge will be straightened enough to make it safe.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that during construction, to get across the railroad tracks, motorists must drive far out of their way if they want to stay on state routes.
“To get from this side of the bridge to that side of the bridge, they’ll have to drive 30 or more miles out of their way,” said Gidget Mott, transportation project manager for the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Mott met with area residents and county and district officials at an open house Tuesday afternoon at the Apostolic Pentecostal Church here on Route D.
Displays were set up on easels in the church sanctuary, and participants were given a folder of information about the project.
The basic information is this:
• The bridge, built in 1944, will be replaced.
• In addition to building a new bridge, MoDOT will realign a portion of Route D to make it safer.
• “The bridge must be replaced in its existing location. The terrain and the alignment of the roadway across the railroad does not allow for a cost-effective way to maintain traffic during construction,” according to one of the information sheets distributed at the meeting.
• The project will take place in 2014, not this year. Bids will be opened in March and awarded in April. A notice to proceed will be issued in June, and the road could be closed, starting that month in 2014.
How long the bridge will be closed is not known.
“Typically, a bridge replacement is a three-month project,” Mott told the Rolla Daily News Tuesday. “But here we’ll have to work with the railroad” in typical Ozarks terrain “so we don’t know how much that might delay us.”
More right of way will be needed, and the MoDOT officials had a brochure titled “Pathways for Progress” available; it explains the right of way process.
The existing bridge is 138 feet long and 22 feet wide. The new bridge will be 140 feet long and 26 feet wide.
Construction of the bridge and realignment of the road is expected to cost $613,000, said Preston Kramer, area engineer for MoDOT. He is based in St. James.
“It’s a very old bridge. It is at the end of its life,” Kramer said. “We need to replace it."
During the preliminary planning of the replacement, the department engineers learned that a curve approaching the bridge has had more accidents than any other curve on Route D.
Page 2 of 2 - The planners softened the curve, and “when we get finished, it will go from being one of the most dangerous curves to being one of the best curves,” Kramer said.
Acknowledging that closing Route D for the three months or more of construction will cause an inconvenience to travelers and area residents, Kramer said, “That’s why we’re taking a year to get ready for it.”
He noted that emergency medical services, fire districts and sheriff’s departments in Missouri have mutual aid agreements with other agencies.
“They help each other out,” Kramer said. First-responder agencies that serve the Jerome area, primarily from Phelps and Pulaski counties, will have a year to work out a plan to respond to emergencies in the area around the bridge.
Indeed, some of that contingency planning has already begun. Phelps County Deputy Sheriff Paul Lambert attended the open house to check maps and find out timelines to figure out how to serve county residents.
Lambert said there are county roads in that area that can be used, and he said it is likely help will be sought from Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department to get to some of the areas north of the bridge during the construction period.
Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp and District Two Commissioner Gary Hicks were also present at the meeting, as was Newburg Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Westerman. Bill Martin, assistant chief of the Doolittle Fire Protection District, attended.
There were many other fire, law enforcement, school and medical service personnel who attended to find out what to expect and to begin thinking about what they’ll do to work around the construction while meeting the needs of their taxpayers.