MORRISON – It looks as if the city will come away relatively unscathed from an expensive bridge replacement project that unexpectedly landed in its lap after a failed inspection.
The city has been told that the project should qualify for federal funds, which would cover 80 percent of the cost, while the city and county each would pick up 10 percent. No engineering work has been done, but the work likely will cost at least $1 million.
“We’ve initiated the process with the county and we should be able to get federal funds in time to do the bridge in 2020,” City Administrator Barry Dykhuizen said.
Crocker Bridge over Rock Creek on the southwest side of town failed a scheduled Department of Transportation inspection in May. The situation became more complicated when IDOT, which for years had it listed as a Mount Pleasant Township structure, questioned its record-keeping and determined that the bridge actually is the city’s responsibility.
The city, Whiteside County and the township had split the cost of maintaining it.
Another pricey infrastructure project could have been a budget-buster for a small city that is making payments on three EPA loans, one for a $17 million sewer plant. It also could have jeopardized a $2 million infrastructure project the city wants to do in the heart of its downtown.
The city wants to rebuild a 5-block area of Main Street from Orange to Clinton streets, including roads, ADA-compliant sidewalks and a larger water main system.
The 2020 target date for the bridge coincides with a tentative start time for the downtown work, which is part of a larger plan.
“If we’re issuing bonds for Main Street, we want to evaluate all of our infrastructure projects and get bonds for that, too,” Dykhuizen said.
Had the bridge still been in the township’s jurisdiction, the county could have petitioned to use state motor fuel tax funds from the Township Bridge Program to pay for most of the project.
In its latest bridge inspection report, IDOT cited severe section loss to the steel piles at both piers, located directly below the reinforced concrete abutment cap. The deck beams and pier cap are in bad shape and some of the beams have large cracks.
The city and county have decided against repairs that could extend the bridge’s life a few years at a cost of at least $70,000.
“We’d rather not pay for a Band-Aid on this,” county engineer Russ Renner said. “The state probably wouldn’t allow the piles to be reused and repaired, and I doubt they’d allow the substructure to be reused.”
The bridge still can be used, but its weight limit has been reduced to 26 tons, and it must be inspected twice a year instead of once every 2 years.