Commissions lean toward replacing bridge by Ramona

Staff reporter

Comments from the public at a meeting June 2 did not fall on deaf ears.

Marion County Commission traveled Thursday to Abilene to hear discussion and give input to Dickinson County Commission about a bridge that is a shared responsibility of both counties.

The bridge is located on 370th between Remington and Sunflower Roads, northeast of Ramona. Marion County has been paying for the inspection of the 93-year-old steel bridge but the bridge is actually in Dickinson County.

In the end, the two commissions agreed that the bridge needed to be replaced and the historic bridge should be preserved.

At Monday's Marion County Commission meeting, the commissioners "officially" echoed the sentiments expressed at the Thursday work session between the two commissions and voted to authorize a study of the bridge, paying 50 percent for the study.

At Thursday's meeting, Dickinson County Engineer John Gough told the commissions that the creek was the main line that feeds Herington Lake. The right-of-way follows the section line and bridge but during the past 90-plus years, the road has shifted, causing buried fiber optic lines to probably be located on private property.

Utilities located on public property such as a right-of-way, would be moved by the utility company. Utilities located on private property could be relocated but at the expense of the entity making the request, in this case the two counties.

Gough said there basically were three choices — a low-water bridge, a new steel bridge, or a new bridge and new road.

Early cost estimates indicated a new bridge could cost the counties $350,000. Gough said if the counties decided to establish a new road, build a new bridge, and move the fiber optic line, the cost could be double the initial estimate.

The good news of the day appeared to be the cost of a steel bridge structure that would meet the needs of the farmers in width and weight load limits with a price tag of around $100,000.

The two commissions discussed options with a concrete low-water bridge but the engineer informed the officials that there was a natural drainage of water east of the bridge that sometimes washed-out the road. If a low-water bridge was the only means of crossing the creek, agriculture producers and residents would have fewer opportunities to use the road and bridge because the low-water bridge would be under water more often.

The decisions seemed to be a "no-brainer" for the officials because the cost of the low-water bridge could be about the same as the steel structure with the steel structure offering more use of the road.

Discussion at the public meeting was about the bridge and no comments were made about the condition of the road or the road being under water when it rained.

"It's really two separate issues," Joe Nold, Dickinson County commissioner, said.

Marion County Commissioner Randy Dallke concurred.

"Users of the road are used to the condition of the road after a rain. Improving the bridge is their main concern," he said.

The current bridge was built in 1915, is 13 feet wide, and has a weight load limit of three tons, hardly enough for passenger vehicles let alone school buses and farm equipment.

A new steel bridge would be at least 24 feet wide and would be able to handle 20 tons of weight.

The cost estimates did not include road work or the cost of relocating the fiber optic lines.

Discussion then followed regarding the use of the old bridge.

Gough said if the historic bridge was left as it is, eventually Mother Nature would wash out the abutments, causing the bridge to collapse. However, if rip-rap was applied and the bridge maintained, it could last for years.

However, all agreed that the best solution would be for the City of Ramona to be given first chance of having the bridge moved to the city for posterity.

Marion County Commissioner Dan Holub said he would inform the Ramona City Council of the decision at the council's meeting Monday evening.

Earlier in the meeting, Nold distributed cost share information based on the 2008 assessed valuation of the two counties.

If the two counties were to share the costs of the bridge, Dickinson County would pay 61.7 percent of the project and Marion County would pay 38.3 percent.

If the project was not completed in 2008, the cost-sharing ratio could change with the 2009 assessed valuations.

Dickinson County Commissioner Everett Kolling asked if Kansas Department of Transportation could condemn the bridge before

Gough said KDOT doesn't condemn bridges. The engineer who inspects the bridges, in this case Cook, Flatt, and Stroebel, the Marion County engineering consultant, would recommend a bridge be closed when it becomes too dangerous to be used.

Also the two commissions could decide to condemn or close the bridge until it is replaced.

Concerns were expressed about school buses crossing the bridge which probably would require an eight-ton weight-limit.

"There were some farmers at the meeting who said they had hauled more than three tons on that bridge," Kolling said. All agreed that the primary concern was the safety of motorists on the bridge.

Gough said the next step would be a survey to determine the exact location of the fiber optic lines. In order for that to occur, one county needs to take the lead on this project to authorize the survey.

Dickinson County Commission Chairman Sheila Biggs said the Dickinson County Commission would take action Thursday afternoon to have the survey done but the Marion County Commission needed to take action at its meeting on Monday to do the same.