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Paying the price for progress

PARK HILLS — Residents in that part of the former Esther community north of Koen Creek will be paying the price for progress for as much as four months as the 7th Street bridge replacement is installed.

That price is inconvenience and it will begin this week, according to City Administrator John Kennedy. The contractor, Goodwin Brothers Construction Co. of Crystal City, is to begin site preparations today but the real problem for area residents will come later in the week.

According to Kennedy, who met with the contractor and engineers recently, demolition of the existing bridge is scheduled to begin Wednesday. That means 7th Street will be closed to all traffic between Scoggins Street and Griffith Street until the bridge is completed.

The contract between Special Road District No. 2 and Goodwin Brothers allows up to 120 days for completion of the project. Kennedy said that because of some factors that could affect the time it takes to replace the bridge, the contractor has opted to schedule a completion date of Jan. 26, 2005. Even that is not a firm date because the contract also allows extensions for bad weather.

While it could take up to four months to complete the bridge, Kennedy said he is confident Goodwin Brothers will do everything within the company’s power to get the project done as soon as possible. He pointed out it is the same company that constructed the West Elvins Boulevard bridge of Flat River. The company worked through the winter and had the bridge completed well ahead of the target date last year.

Unfortunately, Kennedy pointed out, there is one critical element of the project over which the contractor does not have control. It is the creation of the precast concrete spans called for in the plans.

The precast spans will be constructed by Egyptian Concrete and hauled to the site where they will be installed. The city has been told by the contractor that the concrete firm has some other projects ahead of this on its schedule. It was also indicated that the casting of the spans will take more time than what the engineers who designed the bridge had anticipated.

Removal of the bridge and site preparation are not considered a time problem, but getting the precast spans and the possibility of harsh winter weather are factors the contractor cannot control.

In addition to removing the old bridge, the contractor will also be taking out a weir — which is a small dam — located just upstream from the bridge. Both are believed to have been in place for more than 70 years.

When removal of the bridge does begin, residents of that part of the community north of Koen Creek will have only one way in and out of their community. They will have to use Jennings Road and Conway Road to get to Parkway Drive to the north. From there they can take either the Parkway Drive interchange to U.S. 67 or St. Joe Drive to go north and south.

The present bridge has been restricted to one lane of traffic and a three-ton load limit for several years because of its deteriorating condition. The restrictions were placed on the span after a small section of the bridge floor collapsed.

After the city spent more than two years of trying different approaches to come up with funding to replace the bridge, the trustees of County Special Road District No. 2 came forward to offer the district’s assistance. Eventually, the road district took over the project and is assuming the entire $487,000 cost of replacing the bridge.

Even as final arrangements were being made to replace the 7th Street bridge, the city and road district began looking at other bridge projects facing the community. The most eminent is the Commerce Street bridge across Koen Creek. More challenging projects, city officials concede, could be the two bridges on St. Joe Drive. One crosses the Union Pacific Railroad tracks next to radio station KFMO and the other is the bridge across Flat River.

None of those projects are considered as pressing as replacement of the 7th Street bridge has been. At the same time, city officials have indicated they do not want to wait until there is a critical situation before addressing the problems.

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