Engineer: Some bridges in floodway not cost-effective to rebuild

Sunday, September 11, 2011

CHARLESTON, Mo. -- Repairs on some of the bridges in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway would be a waste of money.

Dennis Cox, an engineer for Smith and Company of Poplar Bluff, presented the Mississippi County Commission with his preliminary engineering report for bridges located on county roads 310, 312 and 521.

Replacing the bridge on County Road 310, which was completely displaced by floodwaters from the activation of the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway, has an estimated cost of $1.9 million, according to Cox, for a 150-foot bridge which reaches the existing ditch banks.

If the Federal Emergency Management Agency insists on putting in a new 81-foot bridge so it will be the same size that was there before the disaster, "the trick is the roadway," he said.

Embankments on both sides of the ditch would have to be extended 35 feet into the ditch for an 81-foot bridge which would create a bottleneck in the ditch, according to Cox. Extending the banks would also require a significant amount of rip rap, cofferdams and dewatering measures, he said.

"It's just not feasible," Cox said.

The $1.9 million estimated for a 150-foot bridge does not include the cost of removing the displaced bridge from the ditch, he said.

"It's going to require cranes and a large excavator," Cox said.

The bridge on County Road 312 would cost an estimated $395,000 to replace and around $223,000 to repair, according to Cox's report.

"We recommend that they do not try to repair the bridge," he said, as the bridge would still have deficient elements even if repaired.

Cox said the repair estimate does not include the cost of replacing bridge parts that are damaged while removing the concrete deck to make the repairs.

Also, those repairs would do nothing to increase the load limit on the bridge, which was reduced from 20 tons to a 10-ton limit, to safely accommodate the weight of trucks during the harvest season.

And there is no temporary measure or fix for the bridge to enable farm harvest traffic, Cox said.

Putting in a temporary low-water crossing "is pretty complicated and it's not going to be inexpensive, either," he said.

The drainage district is almost sure to oppose a low water crossing, Cox said, as it "would significantly impact hydrology in that ditch."

Commissioner Steve Jones agreed the district would "view it as a dam."

Cox said the money would better be spent elsewhere.

The news regarding the bridge on County Road 521 was also not good.

The FEMA engineer "could not find any specific items that could be tied to the flood event," Cox said. "It doesn't, to them, look like recent damage."

While there is a pile -- the engineering term for a column used to support a bridge -- missing since the last inspection, the remaining piles don't show any new damage and the bridge has not shifted on abutments.

"There's no lateral movement in this bridge," Cox said.

The estimated cost to replace the bridge is $650,000.

"Repairing it, really, is not an option," Cox said.

Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett said that even though the bridge has a posted load limit of 10 tons farmers are very likely to continue to haul grain across it.

"People are going to go across it until it falls down," he said, "or we close it."

Cox said he emailed a copy of the preliminary engineering report to the FEMA engineer on Wednesday.

"If he needs a hard copy I'll mail him one," he said.

In related business, if federal disaster assistance funding doesn't start to come in soon, the county may not have the money to continue recovery efforts.

DeLay said FEMA has frozen funding for permanent projects in the state to free up funds for East Coast assistance.

"It's going to create a tremendous cash-flow problem for us," he said.

The county only has about $400,000 remaining in the road and bridge fund, DeLay said, and the blacktopping contract with Paving Pros of Oak Ridge will take about half of that.

FEMA has reportedly sent reimbursement funds to the State Emergency Management Agency for four county projects which could be a total of between $100,000 and $200,000, according to DeLay.

Bennett said the infrastructure repairs are critical for the county and must continue.

"You've got to have money to pay for the stuff you do," DeLay said.

DeLay said the county should begin receiving property tax revenue in November.

Pertinent address:

Charleston, MO

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