The recent inspection of the Riverside Bridge by the Missouri Department of Transportation left little doubt about the structure’s condition. Engineer C. B. Alexander, in a written report dated Sept. 22 and provided to the Christian County Commissioners Sept. 23, said the bridge is “beyond repair.”
“...(B)ased on the age and observed damage of the substructure, I would recommend placing any repair costs towards a new bridge,” the report read. “It appears to me that the substructure has deteriorated to a point beyond repair.”
The county closed the bridge Sept. 21 after the inspection revealed critical deficiencies. Fred Mathews of Mathews Engineers, the firm hired to assess the condition of the 100-year-old bridge and recommend placement of a new bridge, affirmed MoDOT’s report.
“I’m not confident it can be repaired for vehicles,” he said. “It’s not safe for anyone—the county did the right thing.”
The right thing is a major inconvenience to Ozark commuters—the 1,200 to 1,300—who used the bridge daily. But Mathews said he thought the bridge could be repaired to be safe for foot and bicycle traffic should the county decide to preserve the historic structure.
Mathews and the commissioners originally scheduled the Thursday meeting after receiving a notice to proceed for a preliminary design from MoDOT. That will include a survey and engineering studies related to a new bridge, one that’s even more important now.
Presiding Commissioner John Grubaugh said even though MoDOT recommended not repairing the bridge, the county will still explore the possibility.
“We should look at it just to see,” he said. “We are just now starting the process and it is going to be a long time. I said I hoped this bridge would last...but it didn’t.”
Nearby landowners Doug and Carrie Martens asked Mathews what possible locations had been determined for the new bridge.
None yet, Mathews said.
“We couldn’t do any work before MoDOT said to proceed,” Mathews said. “Or they wouldn’t pay for it.”
Lou Lapaglia, who takes office as presiding commissioner Jan. 1, 2011, said he was in favor of preserving the old bridge, but also acknowledged that solution is dependent on finances.
“If at all possible we should retain that bridge for a bike or walking path,” he said. “But it comes down to the money.”
Grubaugh said all options are on the table, but apprised those in favor of preservation that it will come down to money.
“We are looking to see what the options are,” he said. “If you move the bridge from its present location, (federal bridge replacement) money will pay for a bridge but not for a roadway.”
Asked how long the process of building a new bridge would take, Grubaugh said that is a “huge variable” that depends on a number of things. The county built its newest bridge, Jenkins Bridge, in about three years. The Riverdale Bridge took longer, Grubaugh said.
“The main thing to consider now is: Can (we) get this bridge to a safe standard?” he said. “All things are on the table. It’s all speculation. Nobody knows...”
The county is requesting cooperation from motorists to obey the bridge closed signs. Ignoring or removing the signs could cause a disaster. Don’t drive across the bridge, the county warns.