COLUMBIA — The city will have to shuffle some money around to come up with enough to pay for repairs to two bridges on the MKT Trail.
Bridges 6, 12 and 13 were identified as the worst on the trail during inspections in the mid-1990s. Bridge 6 already has been replaced; now the staff at the Parks and Recreation Department wants to fix the other two.
The work will be far more expensive than expected, though. Although the cost of repairs to the two bridges originally were estimated at $147,000, engineers say the better plan is to replace the bridges at a cost of about $503,000.
Bridges 12 and 13 are about a mile and a half mile east of the Scott Boulevard trailhead, respectively.
Parks Services Manager Mike Griggs said the engineers — from Cook Flatt and Strobel Engineering — originally thought they could jack up the bridges and replace the support structures underneath, but then realized the support structures would need to be replaced as well. They believe it would be cheaper to build new bridges than to restore the existing structures.
Meanwhile, the cost complications are compounded by the fact that the city's 1/8-cent park sales tax isn't bringing in as much money as anticipated, given the sagging economy.
To cover the extra expense and to compensate for the lack of sales tax revenue, the city will need to allocate $440,o00 for the bridge work that originally was intended to pay for an extension of the Hinkson Creek Trail to Rockhill Park, according to a report to the City Council from Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood. The trail project was never approved for construction by the City Council in part because of concerns from residents in the area.
Projects such as the trail bridges are exactly what the park sales tax is for, Griggs said, adding that there is a popular misconception that much of the tax money is used to acquire new parks.
Bridges 12 and 13, which are more than 100 years old, are safe for pedestrians and bicyclists, but maintenance and emergency vehicles can't cross them. That's why they need to be fixed, according to Hood's report.
The wood on the bridge decks and railings is tinged with black and green, and the wooden joists near the bottom of the railing appear to be rotting. Still, trail user Jan Fukasawa, who was walking the trail Thursday morning, said she hopes the city will find a way to keep some of the original structures in place.
Fukasawa particularly likes the old railroad parts that remain on Bridge 12 and said the bridges are "rustic looking."