Monday, September 10, 2012


Repaired Bridge with no weight
limit and vulnerable to flooding.
 After the controversy concerning weight limits surrounding the Upton Township Bridge on the Roubidoux Road, Cass Township Board President Jack Watson began discussing what steps townships in Texas County should take when constructing new bridges.  Watson explained, “We are dealing with an unsafe bridge that MoDOT has recommended we close and before we rebuilt it we wanted to make sure it would get the proper weight limit ratings needed to handle the local traffic.  We have milk trucks, farming equipment and school busses that need to use that road and we can’t afford to build a new bridge and then have MoDOT not approve the needed weight limit.”

Dave Mathis, Nita Moore, Bill Jetton,
Jim Fisher, Jack Watson,
Connie Thompson and Tom Story
The Cass Township Bridge on Stultz Road near Elk Creek that Watson mentioned has also been caught up in the weight limit controversy. The bridge had a three ton load limit on it but after safety concerns an engineering study recommended it be closed.  They then asked MoDOT to conduct another inspection and they recommended it be immediately shut for traffic.  Former MoDOT Chief Bridge Engineer Frank Carroll said, “Keeping a bridge open in that condition is a huge liability to the township.  Anything with a heavy load could be in danger of breaking through leaving the township liable for injuries or damages.”

Cities, townships, special road districts and counties are struggling to build bridges that will meet MoDOT standards and have the weight limits needed to move the heavy loads that support the farming economy of Texas County.   There are several steps that must be taken to meet MoDOT’s safety requirements and ensure the new bridge will be rated with a high weight limit.  Watson added, “We didn’t want to spend $22,000 building a new bridge like the Upton Township did and only have a three ton rating. We decided that if you’re going to spend taxpayer money on a new bridge it would be wise to follow the guidelines and make sure it will receive a rating that will allow the heavy trucks to use it safely.”

Demolition to the new Upton Township Bridge
One of the main requirements that MoDOT requires for a bridge to be certified is that it must be designed by a state licensed professional engineer who follows MoDOTs approved plans and is willing to certify the design and verify its safety.  That engineer must also conduct inspections during the construction process to make sure the design is being followed.   Once those two items are accomplished MoDOT will inspect the bridge and can give it the appropriate rating.  SSE owner Stan Schultz stated, “As an engineering Company, we take on quite a bit of liability when I put my stamp on a design and say this bridge was built to specifications. Honestly an experienced builder can build a small bridge like this that is safe but because of past litigation MoDOT has developed this process to ensure safety and protect against lawsuits.”    

After talking with the Texas County Commissioners, MoDOT engineers and other townships, Watson and the other Cass Township Board members solicited qualifications from various engineering firms about designing a bridge that would handle the water flow and traffic loads while still meeting MoDOT’s safety standards.  Watson reported at the last Cass Township Board meeting that after looking over the qualifications and meeting with the engineers he was very impressed with JimFisher and Jarred Wheaton willingness to listen to us and help design the kind of bridge we needed on Stultz road.”  SSE Engineer Jim Fisher added, “We are a rural engineering company that works in this area all the time.  These are simple bridges to design and we understand the need to keep costs down and will work with the township to design only what they need in order to get a safe bridge approved by MoDOT that would not have a posted weight limit.”

Fisher attended the last Cass Township Board meeting to answer any questions about the bridge design and the process for moving forward.  Board President Jack Watson called the meeting to order with Board members Tom Story, Connie Thompson and Nita Moore present.  Texas County commissioners Fred Stenger and John Casey were also in attendance.  Dave Mathis the township maintenance supervisor was there as well and SSE Business Development Director Bill Jetton.  The main topic of discussion was the bridge on Stultz Road.  

Stultz Road south of Elk Creek
 was closed Friday after this
 Cass Township bridge was declared unsafe.
Barricades are in place.
SSE engineer Jim Fisher answered several questions from the board and emphasized that SSE would work with MoDOT engineer Ed Hess and do the necessary surveys and calculations required to start the design process.  He reported that they had already requested the proper permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and that they could get the final design to the board very quickly after the contract was signed. Fisher pointed out that they would be designing a box culvert that would be over 20 ft in clear span to keep traffic out of the water after hard rains.  This bridge will also qualify for the County soft match program and that it would have a no weight restrictions rating once it was completed. 

The commissioners made a few comments about the soft match program and asked for the written plan and design to be presented to them at the next commission meeting where the contract would be signed.  Watson introduced Steve Wilson who had built numerous bridges in Texas County.  Wilson and Fisher looked over drawings and discussed the bridge and MoDOT’s requirements.  Fisher mentioned to the board, “While SSE is happy to have the work and help with this project it’s clear Mr. Wilson is an experienced bridge builder and could build a safe box culvert that would handled the required loads without an engineers approval.” He continued, “We understand you need an engineer to stamp the plans and meet MoDOT’s requirements but honestly liability concerns make us necessary.  Our goal is always to help you with your design needs while keeping the costs as low as possible and working with you to build exactly what you need and not what some engineer pushes you to build.”

SSE's Jim Fisher (right) and Cass Township
Board Chairman Jack Watson
SSE agreed to have the board final plans and be ready for construction in 30 days. Watson pointed out that it would be good to start building the bridge before the weather got bad this fall.  They all agreed to meet at the next commissioners meeting and sign the final contract with the Texas County Commissioners authorization.  Stan Schultz concluded by saying, “This kind of project in this situation is exactly why I started my company.  Too many times rural citizens can’t afford the bridges, roads, or water and sewer improvements they need because the rules and regulations drive the costs up so high.  For 15 years we have been providing quality engineering services to communities that have been told no or given sky high prices that killed their projects.  It’s always satisfying to help get a needed project moving and we are very excited about establishing a relationship with Cass Township and Texas County.”  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks you for your thoughts and comments. It is our hope that these posts will generate a helpful and interesting discussion.