By RICK HAYES email@example.com
---- — MT. VERNON — Reconstruction of a bridge on Panzier Lane which collapsed on Sept. 5 won't be repaired for possibly up to a year, County Engineer Brandon Simmons told the Jefferson County Board during a special meeting Monday night.
Simmons said a forensic consulting team is not expected to report its findings to the county in the next two to four weeks, although Simmons reported he suspects the 35-year-old bridge collapsed due to "structure failure at the creek line."
Simmons indicated the bridge had been inspected every two years since 2007, including February of this year, and cleared all inspections. He indicated the bridge piers failed because inspectors "couldn't see what was going on down there" below the creek line, noting that most of the inspections were done when the water was up 2- to 3-feet from the creek line.
Stan Drennan, an employee of the Highway Department, said the piers are called "weathering steel," which was popular in days gone by. Simmons added the bridge is somewhat of an anomaly since most of the beams built in 1976 and 1977 were not encased in concrete. He also noted the county currently has two other bridges that do not have concrete casings on its piers.
The Board approved a preliminary engineering agreement for the bridge with Hampton, Lenzini and Renwick, based in Springfield, for $38,000. Simmons provided a $600,000 cost estimate to fix the bridge.
He said in conversations with IDOT, the best case scenario is the bridge letting could occur in June 2014 with approximately 45 days for completion. The worse case scenario is a later bidding with completion in November.
"IDOT and the feds are working with us. We'll push forward as much as possible," Simmons said.
The county engineer said federal funding is not available since county officials have to prove the collapse was due to "catastrophic failure from an exterior cause." However, he noted that could change once the forensic report becomes available.
Simmons indicated road signs have been installed at strategic points near Panzier Lane to warn motorists of detours, and he is encouraging motorists to use Riddle Lane, rather than township roads during the closure.
Simmons noted the reconstruction project is 80 percent federally funded with a 20 percent local match, or approximately $120,000. Simmons has approximately $300,000 in the Emergency Bridge Fund to date, he reported.
In other business, the Board formally approved the special committee on courthouse repairs. Named to the committee are board members Randy Edwards as chairman, Tommy Hayes, James Malone and Jeremy Hall.