Earlier this week, Miller County commissioners met with representatives from Ameren's railroad division to discuss plans for replacing an aging bridge.
The bridge, which spans an inoperative railroad line on Jenkins Road near Eugene, is badly deteriorated.
The 64-foot long wooden bridge was built in the early 1900s by the Rock Island Line's Railroad over a section of railway that ran from St. Louis to Kansas City. Although the railway was abandoned in the 1970s, the bridge has never been replaced, and Miller County Commissioner Darrell Bunch said the structure is rapidly deteriorating.
"The bridge is only one lane wide, is made entirely of wood and is in very bad shape," Bunch said. "We are going to have to replace it or MoDOT (the Missouri Department of Transportation) is going to condemn it one of these days."
Bunch said Jenkins Road is used by locals as a "short cut" between Highway 54 and the city of Eugene and carries more than two-dozen cars across the railway bed every day. Because it is very old, only one lane wide and is made entirely of wood, it is not strong enough to support larger vehicles, he said.
"We can't take the county's road graders or dump trucks across it because it's both too narrow and not built to hold that kind of weight," he said. "So although the county maintains Jenkins Road the guys have to work on the road on one side of the bridge, then backtrack and swing around through Eugene and back again to work on the other side."
Bunch said although the railway hasn't been used for more than 30 years, it is still listed as "in operation," which makes it necessary for the county to have plans for a new structure to be approved by Ameren Railroad Division and MoDOT before construction can start.
"We're trying to get the work done in the next 18 months, and we have already hired an engineering firm and have a construction company ready to do the work, but we just aren't able to start yet," he said.
Construction of the new bridge will be paid from a $300,000 pool of federal funds the county receives annually for road and bridge projects.
In an earlier interview, Presiding Commissioner Tom Wright said each year MoDOT inspects the bridges within the county and then recommends which need repair and/or replacement.
"Obviously that isn't a lot of money when it comes to the cost of replacing a bridge," he said. "So we often have to save up for a few years before we can do any projects at all, which is why we do the worst bridges first."
Bunch said earlier this week, the commissioners also reviewed and approved a co-operative agreement to replace a low-water slab at the Brushy Fork crossing on Sequoia Road. The replacement of that low-water crossing will meet standards set by the Missouri Department of Conservation for a design that will accommodate the endangered Niangua Darter fish.
Finally the commissioners met with MoDOT officials and others to schedule a final inspection of a replacement bridge across Beard Creek near Iberia. Both the above projects were also paid for with funds the county garnered through the federal grants.