Marion County's Commission must make a decision soon on whether or not to lower the weight limit to 5 tons on a County Road 402 bridge.
The county has until Thursday, April 25, to take action on a Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) recommendation to reduce the posted weight limit from 13 tons to 5 tons, Western District Commissioner Steve Begley said during the commission's April 8 meeting in Palmyra.
MoDOT suggested the change after an inspection earlier this year of the 81-foot bridge revealed significant rusting and deterioration of the floor beams underneath the bridge deck. The bridge's southwest bearing was also found to have heavy cracking and deterioration.
The commissioners have been reluctant to take action because of the impact the weight reduction will have on residents in that area.
"It's a major artery coming from the east into Palmyra. You have got subdivisions out there," Begley said.
Approximately 300 vehicles cross the bridge daily, it was reported during the April 1 commission meeting. "That's a lot," said Larry Welch, eastern district commissioner.
A weight limit reduction to 5 tons would also impact larger vehicles.
"I know school buses cross it twice a day, so it's going to be tough," said Skip Wilson of the architectural and engineering firm, Poepping, Stone, Bach and Associates during the April 1 commission meeting. "There is certainly some farm equipment that goes across it occasionally."
It has also been suggested that some larger emergency response vehicles will have to detour around the bridge if the weight limit is dropped.
The county had 30 days as of March 25 to make the weight limit change and stay in "good standing" with the state, said Aaron Hugenberg, a MoDOT bridge inspector. If the county refuses to comply, Hugenberg said it could affect the county’s transportation funding from the state.
Begley asked during the March 25 commission meeting if Marion County could make adequate repairs so heavier vehicles could still use the bridge until it is replaced.
Begley contacted Wilson, who lives near the County Road 402 bridge, for repair options.
Matt Walker, a project engineer with Poepping, Stone, Bach and Associates, did not think the county could make sufficient repairs. He examined pictures taken during the MoDOT inspection and visited the bridge before making his decision.
"The repair I think would be at considerable cost," he said. "You could spend a lot of money on a bridge with a load limit that might be lowered again in five years."
Wilson added that based on a conversation he had with Hugenberg, MoDOT would not allow any increase in posting unless the issues mentioned in the inspection report were addressed.
"You are looking at a major cost to repair those items," Wilson said.
Begley, who had hoped for a band-aid solution that would allow the county to maintain a higher weight limit, is not inclined to undertake an expensive renovation project on a span that was constructed in 1930.
"We are not going to throw good money after bad, that's for sure," he said.
While stopping short of encouraging the commissioners to replace the bridge, Wilson said it should be considered.
"By dropping it from 13 (tons) to 5 (tons) MoDOT is telling you to get ready to replace this bridge," he said.
"I can foresee in the next bridge inspection (in two years) where they would probably close it entirely, so we have got to get on the ball," Begley said.