Repair project to close Melvern Lake bridge until late May

Looking north across the Hoch Road bridge, which is slated to be redecked starting Feb. 16.

Travelers who regularly cross the west end of Melvern Lake on Hoch Road will need to find a new route until May. Hoch Road will be closed beginning Monday, Feb. 16, until late May for the redecking of the bridge that crosses the lake and former channel of the Marais des Cygnes River. For local travelers, the bridge has served for years as part of a cross-county route from Osage City and state Highway 170 to Interstate 35 and Lebo.

According to Glen Tyson, Osage County road and bridge supervisor, the project will remove the deck and reconstruct a new concrete surface, including adding additional studs to support the concrete.

An official detour has not been set. Tyson said local travelers would likely find routes around the construction on nearby gravel roads, but all are advised to use state highways 170 and 99 or U.S. Highway 75.

The nearest other bridge across the Marais des Cygnes River valley is about five miles west on K-170 near Reading. K-170 continues west to a junction with K-99, which leads to Emporia to the south. East of the project about 10 miles, U.S. Highway 75 crosses the valley below Melvern Dam.

Tyson and the Osage County commissioners have been monitoring the bridge’s condition for the last few years, noting in 2013 the decking was continuing to deteriorate, and core sampling had revealed the original subsurface was made of inferior product.

Tyson said he believed the lifespan of the original bridge should have been longer, and he expected with the new decking, the bridge will last at least another 40 years and hopefully longer.

“A bridge built in ‘72 should not have to be replaced yet,” Tyson told Osage County News, “It was treated with salt for ice control, which didn’t help, but it should have lasted longer. The county wasn’t involved in construction of the first bridge.”

The bridge was originally constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during completion of the Melvern Lake project, and the easement was later turned over as part of Osage County’s road system. Hoch Road is designated as a FAS or federal-aid secondary route.

In 2013 as a precaution to help delay the bridge’s deterioration, the commissioners reduced weight limits on the bridge to a maximum of 26 tons, and later reduced the speed limit to 20 mph. The previous weight limit was 40 tons, which accommodated the weight of a fully loaded semi-truck.

King Construction, Hesston, won the bid on the $694,269 project, which has become the fifth phase of the county’s ongoing $4.3 million bridge bond project.

Due to the bridge crossing about 400 feet of Melvern Lake, special demolition techniques will be utilized to keep debris from falling into the lake. Tyson said the construction company would use a type of sled that hangs under the structure to catch debris. He said the company had recently finished repairing an almost identical bridge at Perry Lake.

Tyson said signage had been placed at the project site to warn travelers of the upcoming road closure so they could determine other routes in advance, and he offered thanks for their cooperation.

“I give hats off to the locals for understanding there’s a bad situation there and already using other routes,” he said.

Tyson said the project contract requires the work to be completed by May 20, three days before Memorial Day weekend.

See related article here.

Photo from Google Maps.

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