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Columbia Missourian

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Stephens College bridges should be more thoroughly inspected

By Harry R. Weitkemper
April 6, 2012 | 11:09 a.m. CDT

Stephens College recently announced it is going to replace the two, 40-year-old bridges over Broadway and College Avenue. I asked to see the new plans, and they gladly showed them to me. The new bridges are designed very much like the old bridges, with open sides and top so objects can fall or be thrown onto traffic below or someone could even jump. Columbia has had someone fall from a pedestrian bridge recently.

Seven years ago, I noticed the rusting condition of the anchor bolts that connect the bridge to the supporting ground members. I visited the City of Columbia's Protective Inspection Department and asked if those bridges had ever been inspected. I was told the bridges were not over a city street, so inspecting was not the city's responsibility, even though Columbia citizens walked over and traveled under the bridges. The Protective Inspection Department suggested I go upstairs and speak to the city engineer. After waiting outside his office for 45 minutes, I left my card and went home. He phoned me and ask if I thought the bridges would fall, and I said, Yes.

Since the Protective Inspection Department said the bridges were over Missouri Department of Transportation roadways, I visited M0DOT at 4201 Paris Road. I was told the bridges were not on MoDOT property, so it had no control. Where the main beams touch the ground supports, the large beams have the lower flange cut off and part of the vertical member cut short with a small plate welded to the remaining web. The plates, on each end of each beam, have two holes drilled to receive the anchor bolts. The bolts on the outside of each support are badly rusted. The bolts for the other side are rusted away and gone, leaving a rusted hole in the small plates.

I checked the bridges March 27, and I think the bridges should be inspected and closed NOW!

P.S.: After viewing the new plans for half an hour, the new bridges beams, plates and bolts will be covered, so you will not be able to see any rust or determine if any parts are failing, in my opinion.

Harry R. Weitkemper is a Columbia resident and a retired design draftsman.