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New bridge design moves forward
new deh county bridge rebid pic web
A new design will be drawn up to replace this bridge on East Barton County Road. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 The Barton County Commission Tuesday morning approved a service agreement with the Ellsworth engineering firm Kirkham Michael for the redesigning of a long-embattled bridge about a mile east of Great Bend on East Barton County Road.

The agreement for $22,000 includes preparing plans for a reinforced concrete haunched slab bridge, which is a standard bridge type that uses steel piles for the foundation, County Engineer Barry McManaman said. The new design should be done in three to four months.

The Kansas Department of Transportation opened bids on Jan. 18 for a bridge replacement project on East Barton County Road. However the low bid from L&M Construction of Great Bend for $929,000 was substantially over the department’s estimate, McManaman told the commission in January.

McManaman said the commission could bite the bullet and accept the bid. Or, it could reject it and opt instead to go back to the drawing board, have the project redesigned and rebid.

Commissioners opted for the rebid. Even after paying the Kirkham Michael $22,000 for the new design, it would still be cheaper for the county.

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

Then, in 2014, the bridge came up again. This time, plans were made 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.

McManaman said the county will only be responsible for 20 percent of the bridge’s cost. Federal money will cover the rest.