A year ago, Barton County was just being able to breathe a sigh of relief that two of its crucial rural bridge would be open in time for the fall grain harvest.
What a difference a year makes.
The bridges have long since been open, but just because the quick work last year got the bridges on the Radium Road and south of Ellinwood back in use, doesn’t mean that the county is free of bridge concerns, and the Barton County Commission continues to stress the need for bridge safety.
The issue will be addressed again when the commission meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the courthouse.
The meeting is on Tuesday this week due to the Labor Day holiday, Monday.
County Engineer Clark Rusco will report on the plans for pin and hanger fitting for those two bridges to avoid future problems.
According to Monday’s meeting agenda: “H.W. Lochner, Inc. was asked to submit a contract for construction engineering services for the retrofit of the pin and hanger assemblies for the Radium Road and Ellinwood bridges over the Arkansas River.
“The Radium Road bridge, located near Dundee, is a four girder bridge with two expansion joints. The Ellinwood bridge, is a five girder bridge with two expansion joints.”
Last summer both bridge were closed for a time due to the danger from broken pins.
County Engineer Rusco reported at the time that the Radium Road bridge, was built in 1971, and the Ellinwood bridge in 1981. They are the only two bridges in Barton County constructed of concrete and steel beams, with the supporting beams designed to “float” so the bridges can expand and contract, according to the temperature changes. These are only two of about 40 such bridges in the whole state, Rusco added.
One of the problems with this type of construction is that the steel beam mechanism is held together with huge bolts and over time those bolts can weaken, especially on the outside lanes where the metal is exposed to salt solutions during the winter. When the bridge gives or flexes under heavy use, the bolts can snap, which is what happened to the local bridges.
County road crews had noticed signs of shifting to one of the bridge road surfaces and reported it, leading to the investigation that showed the danger.
If the pin system had actually failed, it was explained at the time, the road surface could have broken loose and fallen into the river bed below.
In another transportation issue, the commission will continue discussion on cost sharing for work to the Great Bend compost road, and the commissioners will also continue a discussion about the county’s nuisance code.