There’s no way around it, bridge repairs cause obstacles

Bridges, bridges and more bridges. As if the Osage County Commission didn’t have enough on its plate this week while working on next year’s budget and preparing for upcoming construction on a $4.3 million bridge project, now another bridge is reported to be in poor condition and needs redecking at an estimated cost of $400,000.

Monday the commissioners heard from Glen Tyson, county road and bridge supervisor, about recent patching on a bridge on Hoch Road that crosses the western end of Melvern Lake and serves as a cross-county route from Osage City and state Highway 170 to Interstate 35 near Lebo.

During the patching job, which was undertaken to also determine the extent of the bridge’s disrepair, it was discovered the decking on the bridge needs replaced due to crumbling of the road’s subsurface.

Tyson explained that the approximately 40-year-old bridge’s road surface continues to deteriorate, and recent core sampling and excavation revealed the original subsurface appeared to be made up of inferior product. He said despite patching, the bridge will likely need to be redecked in two years or so.

He reported the bridge’s road surface now looks good, but the patches are only a temporary measure.

As a precaution to help delay the bridge’s deterioration, the weight limits, which were 15 tons, 23 tons and 40 tons depending on the number of axles on a vehicle, have been lowered to 10 tons, 15 tons and 24 tons. The previous 40-ton limit accommodated the weight of a fully loaded semi-truck.

“The engineers hoped we bought at least two years time” by patching the bridge and lowering weight limits, Tyson said.

Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall said the bridge had been deteriorating for many years, and repairs have been delayed because no convenient detour is available.

“The problem with this bridge it’s a very heavily used bridge and there’s no way around it,” Kuykendall said. “We’ve avoided fixing it because there’s no detour – it’s the length of the lake.”

Tyson said any detour would be at least “10 miles one way around it.”

He said the county’s engineers have proposed only replacing the deck of the bridge, because the bridge’s steel structure is adequate.

The recent work conducted excavated numerous crumbled areas on the outside edge of the road and patched them with a fiber-asphalt product. The road was then coated with asphalt to level and fill any voids. Tyson said the coating “did not build the floor up,” but covered the patches.

He said that during the roadwork, the speed limit was lowered to 20 mph in the construction zone, and signs designating the lowered speed limit have been left in place. Permanently lowering the speed limit on the bridge would reduce wear and tear, he said.

Tyson said that the construction speed limits on the county road are unenforceable, and commissioners would need to approve a resolution to set an enforceable speed limit on the road, but that change would need to originate with a recommendation from the engineers.

With Tyson saying the engineers’ estimate of the cost of repair would be about $400,000, Kuykendall wondered, “How are we going to pay for that?”

“We better be figuring out how to build that bridge,” Kuykendall said.

Commissioners agreed to the lowered weight limits and leaving the construction speed limits in place, but Kuykendall said commissioners should expect complaints.

“That’s the squealing we’re going to hear from the truckers that cut across,” he said. “I don’t blame them. That’s the handy, good road to cut across there, but if that bridge is that bad we can’t do it.”

Tyson said that when the bridge is redecked, it would likely require the bridge to be closed for 150 working days.

Osage County Commissioner Gaylord Anderson noted the first bids on the ongoing bridge bond project, which will replace or repair 13 bridges in the county, have come in lower than estimated, raising the possibility that more bridges could be repaired with the bridge bond. He inquired about whether possible savings on the two remaining phases of the project could fund repair of the Hoch Road bridge.

Kuykendall said commissioners were anticipating that lower bids would allow funds to rebuild two wooden bridges on 229th Street and 221st Street in eastern Osage County.

“We had hoped, though, that with what we saved on the other bridge project, to do those two bridges,” he said. “The two of them together was something like $300,000.”

Tyson later told Osage County News the Hoch Road bridge would be eligible for 80 percent federal funding because it is a federal aid secondary highway, but the needed bridge repairs must be listed with the federal government for eligibility, a process that could take several years.

In the meantime, Tyson told commissioners, the bridge’s deterioration might be slowed “as long as the public helps us out and halfway observes our weight limit.”

Construction is expected to begin Aug. 12 on six bridges that are part of the bridge bond project. Commissioners signed contracts earlier this month with Ebert Construction Co., Wamego, which offered the low bids on phases 1 and 3, at $533,765 and $421,661, respectively.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas