A County Road 402 bridge's weight limit in Marion County is being lowered to 5 tons. Faced with a state deadline, the county commissioners authorized the action earlier this week.
"We were required to do that by the 25th (of April) or risk losing MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation) funding," said David Lomax, presiding commissioner of Marion County. "They (county highway department personnel) should have a (new weight limit) sign posted on it today (Thursday) or pretty quick."
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.
Lomax said MoDOT's findings had "blindsided" the commission.
"Steve Begley (Western District commissioner) was pretty shocked that it went from 13 tons to 5 tons in one inspection period," he said.
Before lowering the weight limit, the commissioners had a local engineering company look over the bridge to see if there was a way the bridge could be repaired so that it could retain its 13 ton weight limit until the structure could be replaced.
"Their consensus was we could fix it, but we would spend almost as much money as if we just tore it out and replaced it, so we are going to tear it out and replace it. It is not going to be fun, but it is what we have got to do," Lomax said.
Approximately 300 vehicles cross the bridge daily, according to information provided during the April 1 county commission meeting. County Road 402 is a "major artery coming from the east into Palmyra," Begley said.
Commissioners were concerned the weight limit reduction would prevent the crossing of larger vehicles, such as school buses.
"It turned out not to be as major of an issue for the (Palmyra) school district as we were afraid it would be," Lomax said.
That bus route carries one youngster, who lives near the bridge. The child's parents have agreed to take the youngster across the bridge in order to meet the bus.
The weight limit reduction, however, will still have an impact on those who live in that area.
"The primary hassle, for lack of a better word, is going to be emergency medical and fire response," Lomax said. "Even an ambulance today is over 5 tons."
The County Road 402 bridge, which was constructed in 1930, will now be moved up on the county's list of deficient bridges.
"We will have to pick an engineer and see if there is some off-the-shelf design we might use to speed up the process,” Lomax said. “Then we will forge ahead and try to get it replaced as soon as possible."