COLUMBIA — The MKT Trail between Twin Lakes Recreation Area and Scott Boulevard will be closed to the public beginning Jan. 4, 2010, to allow for construction on two of the trail’s 100-year-old bridges.
Columbia Parks and Recreation anticipate this area of the trail and bridges 12 and 13 to reopen in time for the spring season.
The Parks and Recreation Department have provided a trail detour map with an alternate route for trail users to avoid the portion undergoing construction. The detour outlines a route that will take trail users off the trail at the Forum Boulevard parking lot access to the trail and continuing south on Forum to Nifong Boulevard. It will then follow Nifong, which turns into Vawter School Road, until it intersects with Scott Boulevard. Then by going north on Scott, after approximately 0.3 miles, the Scott parking lot and entrance to the MKT Trail will be on the right. Trail users can then continue on west on the trail.
This detour, according to Google Maps, is estimated at 3.9 miles between the two trail entrances — about 1 hour 18 minutes in walking distance and a 7-minute drive. The distance when using the trail is 1.8 miles.
"Even with the trails open (the detour is) a route some people normally take," because most of the roads included in the mapped-out detour are "runner friendly," said Marc Keys, vice president of the Columbia Track Club. About half of those roads have a sidewalk, and some have about an 8-foot shoulder, he said.
He also noted that another option would be to take Chapel Hill to go around the construction.
The Parks and Recreation Department asked that the public "be patient with the progress of this project." Signs have already been placed on both ends of the construction site to forewarn trail users of the change and explain the detour route and the project's plans.
The damage to the existing bridges is severe, said Steve Saitta, park development superintendent for the department working with Cook, Flatt, & Strobel Engineering for both bridge replacements. A substantial amount of rotting to the bridges' timber supports has left no other options beyond replacing both bridges entirely, he said.
"The smaller of the two, Bridge 13, has actually started to settle (into the ground) enough that (the sinking) could be visible to those crossing over it," Saitta said.
The bridges have been closed to vehicle traffic for the past couple years because the deterioration of the bridges’ timber supports had compromised their "structural integrity." A permanent bollard was set up to prevent vehicles from driving across the bridges. However, this closing also pertained to emergency vehicles, which, Saitta said, is one of the largest concerns regarding the bridges' current state.
Prefabricated bridges will be replacing the deteriorating bridges. Saitta said these bridges will outlive the lifespan of the existing steel-truss bridges, which are limited in lifespan because of the timber supports.
While the new, concrete supports will provide better quality bridges, Saitta and the Parks Department plan to keep remnants of these historical bridges, specifically, small portions of the steel truss of Bridge 12, for future displays.
The budget for the bridge replacement project is $507,000. This is funded by the Park Sales Tax and a Recreational Trails Program grant of $95,549. The original budget was increased by $360,000 after engineering cost estimates were completed. Any future trail bridge renovations or necessary replacements will be "largely dependent on the continued support of the park sales tax," a parks department press release said.