Phelps County Commissioners last week approved a motion to use Archer-Elgin Surveying and Engineering, of Rolla, for a hydrology study that is needed before a replacement bridge can be built west of Rolla after an existing structure failed.
At the commission's July 25 meeting, the commission approved using the local company to perform the study after the County Road 7050 bridge failed July 12. The study will show how large of opening on a new bridge is needed in order to not restrict water flow from Beaver Creek.
The bridge, located off County Road 7000, less than a mile south of Martin Springs Drive, had cracked cells on the deck, according to County Road Superintendent Walter Snelson.
After the bridge was inspected by the Missouri Department of Transportation, a maximum weight limit of 3 tons was placed on the crossing.
The commission on July 23 called Archer-Elgin to send a company representative to the bridge last week to ask if placing a concrete slab over the existing structure would allow the weight limit to be raised in the mean time until a replacement structure can be built.
However, Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said on July 25 that the Archer-Elgin representative recommended holding off on that idea.
It was noted that because the commissioners consider this an emergency situation, there was no need to go out for bids. The cost of the services also are expected to be under the required amount to seek bids.
District One Commissioner Larry Stratman said the commission simply asked for possibilities of what to do at the site, not to design a new bridge. "We're buying a learned opinion," Stratman said.
County commissioners and Snelson have been discussing ideas on how to allow heavier vehicles, such as fire engines, trash haulers and liquid petroleum delivery trucks down the dead-end road, which serves about 17 residences. The bridge is the only way out of the neighborhood.
Earlier this month, residents along County Road 7050 were told they would have to haul their trash to the east side of the bridge, but since then the trash hauler that serves seven customers along the road agreed to use a small pickup truck to take the trash away.
However, if a fire were to break out down the road, fire engines are too heavy, especially when they're full of water. District Two Commissioner Gary Hicks said he was told by one area resident that her fire insurance may be cancelled because large fire trucks can't cross the bridge.
"This needs to go to the front burner," Hicks said.
"We need a remedy for this bridge this year," Stratman agreed, noting that if the county uses federal funds for a new crossing, it will likely take longer and be more expensive because the new structure must be brought out of the floodplain.
Page 2 of 2 - Stratman also said he has been pushing for a new crossing to replace a nearby one-lane bridge on Martin Springs Drive that has poor sight distance.
Stratman asked what residents would think if a brand new bridge was build on for County Road 7050, that may have 50 cars cross a day, if that much, compared to a new bridge on Martin Springs Drive that serves much more traffic.
Hicks agreed to talk to nearby landowners to see if there was any interest in placing a new bridge to the north or south of the existing crossing.
Verkamp said a new crossing would avoid landlocking the residents who live along the road. It was noted that instead of taking property away from the landowners, the existing bridge could be torn down and that right-of-way could be traded for the new right-of-way needed.
There was also talk that if the county highway department crews build the new bridge themselves, if it should be one or two lanes.
The bridge is currently wide enough for one vehicle to cross at a time.