The Thomas Road Bridge is now open, but county workers will still need to lay asphalt on the approaches.
St. Francois County Highway Administrator Wendell Jarvis said he is very proud of the guys who worked on the project in the very southern part of the county. He said workers have done a great job.
“We used the precast culverts we had been talking about, that we built in house,” said Jarvis. “They are sitting on a slab and we pour a slab over the top of them. It has been great project and has went really well. We have several more bridges in this county that we need to replace.”
According to Jarvis, the state is the one who will come in and give a recommendation of a load limit or not. Jarvis stressed the engineering firm is assuring him there isn’t a load limit on this bridge.
“The rains we had been dealing with and a few trees down here and there had affected the completion time,” said Jarvis. “We just can’t leave our guys on a project like this because they have other things they need to attend too. So at times it may seem like it takes a little longer than it should.”
Associate Commissioner Gay Wilkinson said he has received comments from residents in the area that they are very proud of it and believe it was done timely. He added they were very pleased with it and it turned out very well.
Jarvis added they did encounter some damage down there. The walls had some bracing coming across in rows before the concrete slab was poured and someone drove right through their bracing, breaking two by fours and knocking pegs over.
“We never did find out who that was, but it did cost us a little bit of time,” said Jarvis. “It is out there in the middle of nowhere and vandalism can be expected at times.”
The total cost for the Thomas Bridge replacement is more than $70,000 and they will get 80 percent back, up to $75,000, through the Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (or B.R.O funds) – federal funds handled through the Missouri Department of Transportation. As they get the money back they will reuse it to fix other bridges and get reimbursed 80 percent of that through the B.R.O. funds as well.
Jarvis said they do have three bridges in mind to replace next year and they are in the proper steps of getting the permits.
Associate Commissioner Patrick Mullins said this bridge is the perfect example of quite a few years ago when they purchased those concrete forms to start making box culverts.
“You had some naysayers out there and this is the perfect prime example of the benefit of building the culverts in-house,” said Mullins. “Not only did we save money, but you are going to get reimbursed 80 percent for the soft match and build that up over the next couple of years.”
Jarvis said five or six years down the road they should have every bridge in the county replaced that needs to be replaced.
“I will say I feel our guys worked in a very timely fashion on this project,” said Jarvis. “We were there for 24 days and they did a great job. The public doesn’t always see everything in the background while dealing with the state and different departments and the time that it takes to get these things done. I feel we are very fast and efficient. It looks like we are slow, but we aren’t.”
Road and Bridge Supervisor Clay Copeland added they replaced a low-water crossing with a box culvert structure.
“So we raised the road surface there by nearly five feet,” said Copeland. “What would have been impassable during high waters, will now be passable five feet higher.”
The Thomas Road Bridge was completely removed on Aug. 22 for a complete bridge replacement and reopened on Sept. 15.
Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or firstname.lastname@example.org