Wednesday, February 29, 2012
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City discusses fate of Oglesby Avenue bridge

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[February 29, 2012]  In February 2011, the city learned that the bridge crossing Brainard's Branch on Oglesby Avenue was no longer safe for vehicles.

It came as a bit of a surprise because just a few short months earlier the bridge had passed a state inspection deeming it safe, even though it is a more than 50-year-old structure.

The city learned about this when a local resident out walking noticed there was a "pothole" in the bridge floor and notified the city. Upon inspection it was found that the problem was much more serious than just a pothole, and the bridge was closed.

With the city struggling financially over the last few years, the decision was made to not pursue replacing the bridge immediately. The bridge was barricaded off and has remained that way since.

Tuesday night, city engineer Mark Mathon brought up the subject of the bridge once again. He said there are seven bridges that cross Brainard's Branch. Four of them are within a four-block area, on Palmer Avenue, Oglesby Avenue, Grand Avenue and Union Street.

Of the seven bridges, Mathon said three were concrete box culvert construction and in good condition. He said the other four were single-span bridges built in the 1960s.

All the bridges appear to be in good condition at the moment, he said. However, it was also noted that the Oglesby Avenue bridge appeared to be in good condition just three to four months before it was closed.

Mathon said that of all the bridges that cross Brainard's Branch, the bridge on Oglesby Avenue was the one least traveled.

He said what it comes down to is that replacing any one of the four span bridges would cost approximately $300,000. He asked the council if they should consider permanent closure of the Oglesby Avenue bridge, thus saving that expense in case it would be needed for one of the more traveled bridges.

During discussion, Alderwoman Melody Anderson, who represents the ward where the bridge is located, asked what the cost would be to demolish the bridge.

Mathon said he couldn't pinpoint the cost but estimated it would be around $50,000 to demolish the bridge and clean up the area. He said there would need to be some type of beautification for the dead-end area.

Anderson also asked if Mathon had investigated any grants that would help pay for having any of the bridges replaced. Mathon said there is money designated for the Fifth Street Road project that could be used on State Street only. He said State Street was listed as an "urban route" and eligible for federal funding.

Mathon explained that the city currently gets $110,000 per year, but it has always been set aside for the Fifth Street Road project. However, it could be redesignated for State Street if needed.\

Mayor Keith Snyder wanted to know if the box culvert construction was less costly than a span bridge. Mathon said it actually cost more but is more durable.

Snyder also asked Anderson and Alderwoman Stacy Bacon, who also represents that ward, what they believed their constituents would want the city to do. Specifically, he wanted to know if the city should have a public meeting about this, or if they should go forward with making a decision.

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Anderson said in the 13 months the bridge has been closed, she has received one phone call, one message delivered through her husband, Andy Anderson, and one message delivered through Alderwoman Kathy Horn. She also noted that of the three, two were actually in favor of keeping the bridge closed.

Bacon said the only comments she has received have been regarding the Palmer Street bridge. The bridge is higher than the road, and the approach to the bridge is very rough. She said her constituents have said they would like to see that bridge made smoother.

Mathon said he had three bridges, including Palmer, that need some work. He specified that work needed to be done for erosion control, and also there was a need for some asphalt work.

With the end of the fiscal year drawing near, it was discussed whether any of the work had to be done before May 1. Other discussion included a question from Alderman Jeff Hoinacki, who wondered if the city should go ahead and go out for bids on the demolition of the bridge on Oglesby so the council would have solid numbers for the new budget year.

Mathon, however, suggested they not do that. He explained that he had talked with county engineer Bret Aukamp, who said the county would be seeking bids for structure work this summer. Mathon said if the city and county go out for bids at the same time, it could offer some cost advantages.

He explained if contractors have multiple projects, they may lower their bid because they are doing all the work in one general area.

As the discussion wound down, Snyder asked Mathon to do some research on the cost of making improvements to the Palmer Street bridge and have it ready for the council for the workshop meeting on March 13. He indicated the discussions on the bridges would continue then.


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