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Bridge replacement finally on track
New bridge east of Great Bend has been in the works for years
new deh county bridge rebid pic web
This a bridge one mile east of Great Bend on East Barton County Road is on the verge of being replaced, finally. - photo by Tribune file photo

It’s been a long road, but a contract to replace a bridge one mile east of Great Bend on East Barton County Road was approved by the Barton County Commission Monday morning.

“I know we’ve been going through this for a while now,” commission Chairman Jennifer Schartz said. It has been several years since it was first suggested to replace this bridge.

The winning bid came from L&M Contractors of Great Bend for $525,429. Kansas Department of Transportation officials opened bids on Oct. 18, County Engineer Barry McManaman told the commission, adding the bid was in line with KDOT estimates and the agency recommended approval.  

The county’s estimated 20 percent share of the project is $106,000, McManaman said. 

McManaman said the work will start after the first of the year and take about five months. During that time, the road will be closed.

It was back in January that KDOT first opened bids for the bridge. However the low bid from L&M for $929,000 was substantially over the department’s estimate, McManaman said.

But, “bids came in extremely high,” McManaman said. The county’s 20 percent share would have come to $186,000.

Plans were to replace it using a geosynthetic reinforced soil integrated bridge system, a system unproved in Kansas. A GRS bridge system was supposed to take less time and money to install as the bridge rests on layers of compressed concrete blocks separated by a synthetic fabric. 

But, it didn’t work for the county. Contractors were unfamiliar with the GRS process and “it wasn’t the right fit at this time.”

“This was going to be the first in Kansas,” McManaman said 

McManaman said the commission could have bitten the bullet and accepted the bid. But, it opted instead to go back to the drawing board, have the project redesigned and rebid.

The engineering firm of Kirkham Michael from Ellsworth was hired in February to do the redesign at a cost of $22,000. But, even with this cost and the $5,900 for additional survey work, the county will save $52,000, McManaman said.

This will be a traditional bridge using steel pilings. “We have lots and lots of these bridges and we’ve had good luck with them,” he said.

“Sometimes, the tried and true is the best option,” Schartz said. 

Several years ago, the span was up for replacement. But, after $20,000 was spent for a design, it got canceled.

Then, in 2014, the bridge came up again. At that time, the GRS concept was suggested.