Never underestimate the power of public feedback. After hearing about the Missouri Department of Transportation's plan to close part of Route 8 while crews replaced an antiquated bridge, St. James residents responded in droves to express their concerns last month at a public meeting.
And MoDOT was listening.
Never underestimate the power of public feedback.
After hearing about the Missouri Department of Transportation's plan to close part of Route 8 while crews replaced an antiquated bridge, St. James residents responded in droves to express their concerns last month at a public meeting.
And MoDOT was listening.
"What we heard was that closing the bridge even for a short period of time was tremendous hardship for the City of St. James," said MoDOT Area Engineer Preston Kramer. "We will be able to keep the bridge open at a cost that wasn't much more."
After hearing all of the facts, MoDOT staff returned to the drawing board and put together a contingency plan that includes building a new bridge just west of the existing bridge and rerouting the approaches.
Upon completion, the road will veer slightly to the west, and the old bridge will be removed when the new bridge is complete. The road will veer about six-tenths of a mile in each direction.
The current Dry Fork Creek bridge along Route 8 was constructed in 1947. It is 24 feet wide. MoDOT officials say the bridge needs to be 6 feet wider to meet today's highway standards.
This project, which was approved in the 2014-18 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission in July, was estimated to cost about $1.6 million.
The new project will add about $230,000 to the cost, which Kramer says is nothing short of "miraculous."
The initial project was slated to begin in April 2014, with a tentative completion date of August 2014. The road closure period was quoted at about 85 days.
The estimated 35-plus mile detour during the closure period was not acceptable to those who attended the meeting last month.
Bob and Dolly Mounce, who live within a few miles of the bridge, were among the many who attended the meeting.
"Our main concern is with ambulance and fire," explained Dolly.
The Mounce's neighbors, Robert and Ruby Gargus, expressed a similar concern.
"I do not understand why they couldn't just build a temporary one-lane bridge so people could get through during construction," said Ruby.
St. James Mayor Dennis Wilson was worried that the closure would hurt local businesses.
"Fewer people will stop and get gas or a Coke and a hamburger and spend tax money in St James. Also, it is going to effect trout season at Maramec Spring Park, and I am concerned about our school kids," he said. "Busing is going to be a real issue during this time."
Kramer said the new project will be pushed back to the 2015 construction season. Without time constraints, this gives the contractor "the flexibility of doing it anytime he wants in 2015," Kramer said.
Further information about the revised project will be released in the near future.
Eddie O’Neill contributed to this story.