(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of articles on the possible replacement of one of the county’s historic stone bridges.)
Barton County officials plan to keep most of the historic stone bridges intact, but Monday the Barton County Commission will consider replacing one of them with a modern concrete structure for safety’s sake.
County Administrator Richard Boeckman explained the county had sought historic status for the WPA Project bridges in the northern part of the county a few years ago when it appeared there could be grant money available to help fund the preservation of the aging stone structures.
The county got the historic status, but not the money.
While most of the stone structures are in locations where they do not present a problem, one of the two double arch bridges carries a great deal of farm and oil traffic and it is unsafe.
Not only that, but those familiar with the structure noted that it isn’t even safe for a tourist attraction.
Commissioner Kenny Shremmer noted that the location of the double arch stone bridge in question is situated so that visibility is not great because of a series of hills, and the road doesn’t allow the stone work to be easily seen without drivers getting out of their vehicles.
That means that if someone wanted to see the bridge, they would have to stop in traffic, get out and try to climb down a steep embankment. Meanwhile, their vehicle would be sitting in an unsafe spot in a busy township road. It is not a good combination.
Because of the historic status of the county’s stone bridges, county officials are wanting to make sure the public has a chance to comment on the plans to replace the one structure.
The county will still have another double arch stone bridge and a total of seven stone bridges. The other double arch bridge, which is more easily viewed, is only a couple of miles from this site, Boeckman explained.
County Engineer Clark Rusco reported it is expected that it will cost about $70,000 to remove the existing stone structure and replace it with a modern concrete bridge. “I think it’s actually going to be cheaper to put in a new structure,” the engineer said.
It’s been estimated that the required repair work would cost about $90,000. And that would still leave the county with an aging stone bridge, carrying heavy traffic, Rusco commented.
The bridge has been signed with weight restrictions, due to its condition, and it would not take a lot more wear for it to be unsafe, Rusco added.
“We sure don’t want to have a London bridge that’s falling down, like the old school house ditty,” Commission Chairman Homer Kruckenberg suggested.
There would still be several steps required to replace the bridge, Rusco explained. “We’re looking at probably a year, once you get into the permitting process.”
The Works Project Administration bridges were constructed in the early 1940s and continue in use, though they have suffered from disrepair over the ensuing years. According to a report presented earlier by County Engineer Rusco, “the bridges, clustered in the Claflin area, require the repair of damaged stones, replacing failed or missing stones, resetting displaced stones and removing and replacing grout.”