COLUMBIA — A tour of two bridges that have been identified as in need of replacement by the Parks and Recreation Department was conducted for Columbia City Council members on Oct. 9.
Mayor Darwin Hindman,Third Ward Council Rep. Karl Skala and two residents were led through the MKT Trail off of Scott Boulevard where Bridges 12 and 13 are located.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood and Park Development Superintendent Steve Saitta conducted the tour after they presented their latest plans for replacement to the council at its Oct. 5 meeting.
Bridges 12 and 13 were built as part of the MKT Railroad and are now roughly 100 years old. The timber built under the bridges to support them is now rotting. The substructure of Bridge 12 traps water drift debris under the bridge, creating rust and damage, according to documents Saitta and Hood submitted to the council. Saitta explained that there is not a way to keep parts of the old bridges intact because the rotting is so bad.
A 2002 inspection by the engineering firm Cook, Flatt and Strobel of the 13 bridges on the MKT Trail in Columbia showed that Bridges 6, 12 and 13 were in the worst condition and in need of replacement. About three years ago, Bridge 6, which was determined to be in the worst condition, was replaced, Hood said.
The Parks and Recreation department hoped to keep Bridges 12 and 13 and only do repairs on them because of their historical value, but the engineers said repairing the bridges would take more work, more money and would create more negative environmental impact, Saitta said.
While examining Bridge 13, Saitta said it “could go anytime.” He added that if the bridge “settled six inches, the public can’t go across it and the trail must be closed.”
Bridges 12 and 13 have been closed to vehicles in the past 12 to 18 months and this became a concern because emergency vehicles cannot cross the bridges, Hood said. A permanent bollard has been set up to prevent vehicles from driving across the bridges.
Saitta said there was an incident where a woman had a medical emergency and called 911, but the ambulance was unable to cross the bridges and emergency responders had to walk to her and carry her out on a stretcher.
Maintenance vehicles have also been unable to go between Bridges 12 and 13. This was evident when the tour group came upon a large sinkhole that Saitta and Hood were not aware of.
If the City Council approves the replacement plan, prefabricated bridges will replace the old ones.
Trees will have to be removed to replace the bridges. The department originally estimated 100 trees would have to be removed but has reduced that number to 46. Saitta said he has been working with a forester to “minimize the tree loss between the bridges.”
A bid has been placed by a private construction company to replace the bridges. The bid has not been accepted yet but is good until Nov. 16.. Hood said the bid was under budget and Saitta estimated it was around $370,000.
Both bridges are expected to be replaced by the spring.
The estimated cost for the entire project is between $400,000 and $500,000. The city has received a $95,549 recreational trails program grant for the project. Hood said the rest of the project will be paid by park sales taxes.
Hood said it is very likely that as they age, more of the bridges may need to be replaced. Some of the bridges, such as Bridge 11, could last another hundred years, Saitta said.
Saitta said that the replacements are time-critical because of the high use of the trail.