COLUMBIA – The new COLT railroad bridge over U.S. 63 makes the drive between Route B and Brown Station Road safer and smoother.
Construction of the bridge, which began in September 2009 and finished this month, cost $3.8 million, said Christian Johanningmeier, COLT power production superintendent. He said the money for construction came from Federal Stimulus Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
It eliminated the bumpy railroad tracks across the highway and the need for vehicles in a 70 mph speed zone to stop when trains were crossing.
“It’s really a safety project more than anything," Johanningmeier said.
Traffic at the former ground-level railroad crossing has increased by about 400 percent since the 1980s, Johanningmeier said. During that time, three motorists crashed into trains, and there were several injury accidents, including two that were fatal.
Some of those crashes were the result of a state law that requires school buses, as well as vehicles carrying hazardous materials, to stop at rail crossings.
Those types of vehicles are "two of the worst things you could hit," Johanningmeier said.
The Missouri Department of Transportation lifted the requirement at the U.S. 63 COLT crossing shortly before the bridge project began.
City and state officials felt building the new bridge was a better option than spending $500,000 to fix the ground-level crossing, which wouldn't have eliminated the safety concerns and would have required a lot of maintenance given the heavy traffic, Johannigmeier said.
"What's the value in not killing people anymore?" Johanningmeier asked. “It’s a major safety improvement for the community, and that’s the most important thing."