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Commissioners consider bridges of St. Francois County

The bridges of St. Francois County were among discussion items at the Thursday meeting of the County Commission.

Commissioners received a report on the cost to repair a bridge on Old U.S. 67 and Berry Road over Big River from Burns & McDonnell, an engineering firm in Chesterfield.

The county had been responsible for maintaining the bridge, but did not have the funds to repair it. It was turned back over to the state, which actually owns the structure and the state shut the bridge down for safety reasons.

Several supports for the bridge are cracked, a truss has collision damage, and there is significant deterioration of the structure in multiple locations. It is also too narrow.

The study was paid for by state funds, but there is no money in the 2009 budget for repairs. The previous Commissioners had the study done so they would know what the costs will be, if and when.

The study estimates it would cost $2.153 million to repair the Berry Road Bridge. It would, however, still be too narrow for modern safety codes. The bridge was built in 1924.

Replacing the bridge, which would bring it up to current standards, will cost $2.662 million.

Associate Commissioners Bret Burgess and Patrick Mullins took the report under advisement.

The two are also reviewing a contract with Union Pacific related to work on a bridge that is located on Old Bonne Terre Road not far from Lake View Park.

The agreement was negotiated prior to the election of Mullins and Burgess to the Commission.

Funding for that bridge was to come from BRO money, which is funded by gasoline taxes. The county gets about $40,000 annually for bridges from that source and has been saving it for quite some time.

The remainder of the BRO money was slated for work on the Vo Tech Road bridge. The county had been negotiating a cost-sharing agreement with the state, Desloge and Bonne Terre.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the county would kick in an estimated $3 million, the largest share. The state would provide $400,000 and Desloge $119,000. Bonne Terre was asked to provide $20,000, but had refused.

The previous County Commissioners had said they would try to find the $20,000 from somewhere, so as not to lose the bridge work over that amount — but nothing was finalized prior to the newly elected officials taking office.

Like the other two bridges, maintenance of this bridge was given to the county many years ago, but the bridges still belong to the state. The county can return them with a 90-day notice if they cannot maintain them.

County officials have been reluctant to do that with the Vo Tech bridge, however, fearing the state would just close it. Vo Tech Road has served as a significant conduit for North County school buses which run between Desloge and Bonne Terre.

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