After a county road bridge west of Rolla failed earlier this month, one area resident is questioning whether someone should be held accountable.
On July 12, the crossing over Beaver Creek on County Road 7050, just off County Road 7000, south of Martin Springs Drive, failed when cells cracked on the bridge deck.
Phelps County Highway Department crews have made some repairs and graded the bridge, but after the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) inspected the structure, a decision was made to lower the weight limit to 3 tons.
Donna Beckering, who has lived on County Road 7050 since around 1985, contacted The Rolla Daily News Friday and said she has seen a gravel hauler, Smith Sand and Gravel, who she believes has been hauling trucks with an overloaded amount of gravel from a creek at the end of the road over the bridge.
"Nobody checked him (Smith). The county let him get by with it," she said.
However, Phelps County Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp, when contacted by phone Friday, said he is not ready to assign blame to anyone as to why the bridge failed.
"There's no indication that he (Smith) was overloaded," Verkamp said, adding that Beckering raises a fair question. "We do not have the capacity to weigh loads."
Beckering said Smith has been hauling trucks along the road for the last three to four years and has seen four trucks hauling at a time.
"They started at daylight and didn't stop until 5 p.m.," she said.
Gary Hicks, county commissioner for District Two, where the bridge lies, said when contacted by phone Friday, "He (Smith) has got as much right to use that road as anyone does."
According to Hicks, Smith offered to pay to fill the caved-in section with concrete, but Hicks said county officials declined that offer because they thought it was better to remove the damaged cell.
Verkamp said the offer, while turned down, speaks highly of Smith. Verkamp also said that other haulers, including the county itself, have moved gravel from a creek at the end of the road in the past.
Since the lower weight limit was placed on the bridge July 15, Beckering said trash haulers could no longer go down the road for pickups.
Beckering said she was told she and her neighbors would have to bring their trash up to the east side of the bridge since large trucks cannot cross it. It's an inconvenience, she said.
About 17 residences are located along County Road 7050 and the bridge is the only way to access those homes.
The weight limit also means that no fire engines can cross the bridge, which raises a big safety issue for the neighborhood.
Page 2 of 2 - "That is our main concern, emergency vehicles getting in there," Hicks said.
"There is an urgency there," Verkamp said of the need to replace the structure. While he said using Bridge Replacement Off-System (BRO) funds would help, that is a long-term solution, "and we recognize the need for a short-term solution," Verkamp said.
"Here's the challenge: anything we do is going to landlock them," Verkamp said.