ANY QUESTIONS: How well-maintained are Columbia's bridges?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:45 p.m. CST, Friday, March 7, 2014
The Ashland Road Bridge over Hinkson Creek near Old 63 is more than 125 years old.

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During my bike rides on trails in Columbia, I cross many bridges. Some of them are really old — for example, some of the bridges on the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail are more than 100 years old.

Even older is the Ashland Road Bridge over Hinkson Creek at Old 63, which is more than 125 years old. This Pratt through truss bridge, a kind of bridge developed by Boston railroad engineers, was built in 1888 and does not seem to be in good condition. I regularly cross it while walking and biking, but I am afraid of the detached and ailing wood bridge deck. When I bike across it, I can feel it moving, and the metal beams on both sides are rusty.

I wanted to learn more about bridge upkeep in Columbia, so I pitched the topic to my editors as an "Any Questions" feature. I then talked with Columbia Parks and Recreation and did some research. Here's what I found.

How does the city maintain trail bridges?

The Parks and Recreation department is responsible for trail bridges, which are what they sound like — bridges that can be found on trails, typically used for walking and biking, but not driving.

The department does visual inspections every year. It also hires an engineer to evaluate bridge safety every five to seven years, said Mike Snyder, the department's superintendent of planning and development.

According to a study from the past year, four of the 13 bridges on the MKT need to be replaced. Until the financing is secured, these bridges will receive only mandatory repairs to keep them safe.

Two bridges were already replaced a few years ago, Snyder said. And this summer in Capen Park, one bridge on the Hinkson Creek Trail will be replaced.

What about road bridges?

The Missouri Department of Transportation takes care of road bridges — bridges that accommodate cars. In Columbia, there are 199 road bridges that are about 37 years old, according to the 2012 National Bridge Inventory Database.

Nine bridges have one or more structural defects that require attention, the database reported. That means they do not meet safety requirements. "Structurally deficient" means that a bridge has defects but doesn't necessarily indicate how severe those defects are, according to the database website.

Seventeen bridges are considered "functionally obsolete," which means they are safe but might not have enough space to accommodate the traffic flow, the database reported. One example the database gave is a drawbridge on a congested highway, or a bridge not having space for emergency shoulders or oversized vehicles.

MoDOT is seeking major repair service for eight bridges in Columbia this year, according to a news release from the department. All of them are between Stadium Boulevard and Broadway and include:

  • Route WW bridges over Hominy Creek and Route 63.
  • Route 63 northbound lanes over Hominy Creek and Grindstone Creek.
  • Route 63 northbound and southbound ramps over Hominy Creek.
  • Route 63 northbound and southbound lanes over Stadium Boulevard.

Most of the construction will be completed during the summer, before fall semester classes and football season start again. All bridges will be open while the repairs are being completed, except Route WW over Hominy Creek. Repairs are scheduled to be completed by August, the release said.

For more information about bridges and their condition, check the National Bridge Inventory Database or the report card for Missouri's infrastructure (to view the report card as a PDF click here). Columbia Parks and Recreation can provides additional information about trail bridges.

Supervising editor is Shaina Cavazos.

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