Residents raise concerns about bridge work

Thursday, August 9, 2007

NEW HAMBURG, Mo. -- When Missouri Department of Transportation begins work on the planned replacement of the Route A bridge in New Hamburg, the construction will cut Larry Gosche's farm in half.

Because MoDOT has decided not to build a temporary bypass to accommodate the 700 to 800 cars that cross the bridge every day, Gosche said he expects he'll have to go 12 to 15 miles out of his way to tend to his crops.

"I farm on both sides of that bridge," he said.

Gosche and other New Hamburg residents voiced their concerns on the project at a public meeting Wednesday at the St. Lawrence Parish Center.

About 25 citizens showed up to speak with five MoDOT representatives about the replacement, which is slated to begin in summer of 2009.

The timing was strategic, scheduled at the "dead" point of the summer, when school lets out and farming slows down, so the road closure will have a limited impact, said Andy Meyer, MoDOT project manager.

MoDOT made the decision to close the bridge without providing a temporary access route because doing so would add another $250,000 to the $393,000 budget, said Tonya Wells, senior communications relations specialist.

"The majority of folks would expect us to spend money like they would spend money," Meyer said.

Saving the money allows it to be "rolled over" to another project in one of the 14 Southeast Missouri counties in District 10, Wells said.

"It's a little disappointing, but understandable, if the cost is prohibitive," said farmer Ed Westrich, about the lack of a bypass.

Using county roads 213 and 211 will add about 10 minutes to the trip downtown and toward Benton for those living north of the bridge, Meyer said.

Hilbert Westrich, who has lived in the area 53 years, said he was just relieved an additional five feet in width would be added to the new bridge, allowing him to safely transport farm equipment across without having to yield to traffic.

Dennis Gosche, another farmer, said he thinks the construction may cause accidents because it will put more traffic on the county roads.

"People that don't know these roads take them too fast and can't make it around the corners; they hit mailboxes," he said.

Another significant concern was providing a fast and efficient route for emergency personnel during the bridge closing, but the Chaffee fire department is capable of handling calls north of the bridge, Meyer said.

After speaking with Meyer and other representatives from MoDOT, most residents seemed to leave fairly placated at Meyer's promise to "give us two months and you'll have a new [bridge]."

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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