• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

Making Meaningful Progress on County Bridges – Chillicothe News Constitution-Tribune

ByChad J. Johnson

Sep 24, 2022

BY ED DOUGLAS Livingston County Presiding Commissioner

Livingston County has 120 bridges over 20 feet long, each of which is inspected by MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation) every two years. We also have approximately 50 bridges under 20 feet in length for a total of approximately 170 county bridges. When conditions permit, we also use tubes of varying lengths to cross smaller streams. Historically, we have used federal funds allocated to our county each year for bridges through the federal BRO program. These federal BRO funds along with a 20% project match from county funds have allowed us to build a new bridge every 12 to 18 months. This obviously does not allow us to meet the bridge needs of a county with 170 bridges. Bridges don’t last 170 years, which means we have a long way to go to catch up.

As a result of the COVID pandemic, the federal government has sent us a significant sum of funds (ARPA – the American Rescue Plan Act of 21) which can be used for any general county purpose or need. Because we have a significant need to repair bridges across the county, we have committed a significant portion of these Federal ARPA funds to bridges. To begin this process, we hired an engineering firm to inspect all of our bridges, produce a report on each bridge, and give us recommendations for improvements.

From this report and the engineer’s recommendations, we were able to select nine of our worst bridges that were in poor condition during the MoDOT inspection and which our engineer believed could be repaired without a total rebuild. This saved us considerable funds by repairing these bridges rather than completely rebuilding them. Instead of spending $400,000 to $500,000 on a new bridge, we were able to spend about $150,000, on average, to repair these bridges, which allowed us to repair many more bridges with limited resources. These bridges with their patches should have a lifespan of over 25 years. The total cost of the 9 bridge project is approximately $1,370,000 and is expected to be completed by the middle of next year. These nine bridges are spread throughout the county and are expected to benefit a large portion of the county.

Additionally, we have committed to one BRO bridge to be built next year and we have also committed to building another bridge with county funds that will provide the equivalent of five more BRO bridges in the future. In addition, the federal government recently modified the BRO project and we hope that this will allow us to build three more bridges over the next two or three years. Finally, last year we were able to put another county bridge back into emergency condition. In total, this means that we have built, or are in the process of building or repairing, a total of 15 bridges in a short period of time, compared to what might normally be one or two new bridges. (It should be noted that the three hoped for in the new BRO program have not yet been awarded, so it is not yet a certainty.) Considering that building new bridges can currently cost between $400,000 and $500,000 $, I can argue that we get $6,000,000 to $7,500,000 in bridge value by building several new bridges and doing major repairs on the rest, at a much lower overall cost.

These upgrades will go a long way to improving the overall condition of our county’s bridges.