Replacement of Dry Fork bridge moved to number two on Maries County transportation priority list

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 10/21/20

VIENNA — Two MRPC representatives and one county transportation advisory committee (TAC) member, along with MoDOT’s area engineer, met with the Maries County Commission last Thursday …

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Replacement of Dry Fork bridge moved to number two on Maries County transportation priority list

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VIENNA — Two MRPC representatives and one county transportation advisory committee (TAC) member, along with MoDOT’s area engineer, met with the Maries County Commission last Thursday morning to discuss the county’s transportation priorities for the 2020 regional list. The ones selected will be melded with the transportation priorities from the other counties in the region and will be among the selections voted on for the final regional list.

MRPC Executive Director Bonnie Prigge and Planning Manager Anne Freand met with the commissioners as did county TAC member Belle Mayor Steve Vogt.

The region’s and Maries County’s number one priority remains the major project of US 63 from Highway 50 in Osage County to the Phelps/Texas County line. The project includes corridor improvements including widening to 4-lane, shoulders and horizontal alignment improvements. This is an unfunded priority.

A deficient bridge in Maries County was moved into the number two position on the county’s priority list—the bridge on Highway 28 over Dry Fork Creek near the bottom of Liberty Hill. It was determined to be a high priority by the commissioners.

MoDOT Meramec Area Engineer Preston Kramer was at the meeting via phone. He said the Dry Fork bridge, identified as M-422, was built in 1929 and it is in poor condition. The bridge has been rehabilitated several times and in 1998-99 the concrete architectural bannister was taken off and a more modern one added. Kramer said the narrow, two-lane bridge needs to be replaced.

Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said it is a dangerous bridge and people have complained about it for years. Vogt agreed with moving up the Dry Fork Bridge in the priorities, saying it is dangerous and “you hold your breath if you meet a semi or a bus on that bridge.”

In general engineering terms, Kramer said if there is a problem with a bridge deck, that can be worked on, but if the bridge’s superstructure is bad, “it needs to be replaced.” Freand said they want a four-lane US 63 to happen but the money is not there now to do it, but bridges are important. Prigge added its “how you get from here to there.”

Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman noted the M-422 bridge has a traffic count of over 1,000 vehicles a day, but just 361 in truck traffic. Drewel said there is more truck traffic on Highway 28 past the bridge, going to Highway 63 than there is coming into Belle.

In 2019 the county commission’s number two transportation priority was safety improvements of adding 2 ft. shoulders to Highway 28 throughout the entire county. Stratman said doing so is “probably unrealistic.” Prigge said a bridge is a big priority. Kramer said Highway 28 to Highway 50 is an excellent candidate for two foot shoulders. It is fairly straight and would be easier to do. He spoke about run off the road accidents, which there are more on US 63 but both highways have a higher than average number run off the road accidents. When Highway 28 is repaved it would be an idea to address it then, which could be in several years.

Stratman asked if a new bridge at the Dry Fork site would be on the same alignment as the present bridge and Kramer said yes. The current bridge will be torn out, with traffic detoured for the two to three months it will take to build a new bridge. Kramer said Highway 28 is scheduled for a one-inch asphalt overlay in the MoDOT Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) for 2025-2026.

About the STIP, Kramer said this year has not been a normal year and he hopes next year can be spoken about as normal. The priorities for Maries County and other counties is a list of unfunded transportation needs. The STIP is a rolling five-year program approved at the beginning of the fiscal year, which is July. In July 2020, they did not get a new STIP. People have not been driving and buying as much gasoline, nor have they been buying new cars, and not getting their tags renewed because of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. MoDOT has experienced a $40 million shortfall in revenue below what was projected. “We can’t spend money we don’t have,” he said. A STIP for 2021-25 was not approved, but it may happen this winter, but more likely it won’t be until July 2021 when a 2022-2026 STIP will be developed. This means no new projects have been brought into the plans. Kramer said the economy is slowing returning. There are more people driving and also buying vehicles.

Kramer went down the list of the 22 Maries County transportation priorities. About the safety improvements to Highway 42 east, Kramer said the two foot shoulders and rumble strips added to Highway 42 west have had good results. There is not as much traffic on the stretch of road from Vienna to Highway 28 near Belle. Vogt said he’s not sure adding two foot shoulders is the answer to Highway 42 east because it has so many tight curves.

About the priority of asphalting all county road approaches to state highways, he said MoDOT has made progress and will continue to do so as they do more of these each year.

The bridge over Rodgers Creek on Route N is scheduled for a new bridge in fiscal year 2021. Kramer said some projects were moved out of the STIP, “But this one stayed.” It will be addressed next summer as it is a funded project.

Adding turn lanes at the Quaker Window Products plant in Maries County along Highway 63 is another priority. Kramer said MoDOT does not fund at 100 percent projects to benefit privately owned businesses, but will consider a 50-50 partnership funding agreement. They negotiated previously but the price tag stopped it from going forward. However, recently, leaders at Quaker have expressed renewed interest in the project and Kramer said it is a good candidate for a 50-50 partnership. The ball is in Quaker’s court now. He estimated the cost at $500,000 to $600,000.

Kramer said the good news is there are no new projects to add to Maries County’s priority list.

Prigge said at the US 63 and Highway 28 intersection near the Vichy airport, there are big potholes on the shoulder of Highway 28. Kramer said he will relay this information to the maintenance crew.

The commissioners and Vogt selected the four top priorities as US Highway 63 number one, and the replacement of the Dry Fork bridge as number two. As number three, they chose safety improvements at the Highway 42/133 Y intersection, and number four is a south bound left turn lane at the US 63 and Highway 28 south intersection near the Vichy airport.

Drewel said money will be the problem getting these needs accomplished. Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre wondered when the state legislature “will get enough nerve to raise the gas tax.”

Vogt asked about a stop sign on Highway 89 in Belle at First Street as there have been a number of accidents there. No action has been taken yet. He also asked about a speed limit sign on Highway 28 toward Bland and was told the sign has been ordered.

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