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County replaces more bridges

LINDEN – Contracts for three new bridges for County Road 53 should be let by the end of the month for the remaining special bridge replacement funds allocated to the county.

The GARVEE funds – a Federal Highway Administration program called the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles program – allows states to address immediate highway needs by issuing bonds and using future federal highway funds to retire them. In Alabama, those funds were matched by a state bond issue, and the funds were allocated to each county to replace local bridges that were structurally deficient.

Marengo County’s allotment was about $3.25 million, said County Engineer Ken Atkins.

“Those bridges will end the GARVEE funds,” he said. “We had five years (to spend the allotment), but we’ve done in with only four years.”

Those three bridges will cost around $510,000 – nearly as much as the single largest replacement project the county has undertaken since it began a bridge replacement program in 1985 under the late Harry Richards.

The bridge on County Road 44 just north of Linden is now a modern, concrete-and-steel bridge consisting of seven 40-foot spans.

“That’s the biggest one we’ve done on GARVEE,” Atkins said.

At a cost of $522,000, all that’s left on the project are railings, backfill and approach work – all the responsibility of the county.

“It’s been too wet to get it finished,” Atkins said. “I expect it to be finished by the end of July if the weather cooperates.”

One resident, declining to give his name but who lives near the bridge said the sooner the road is reopened the better.

“We have to drive 20 miles out of the way (to detour the bridge),” he said. “It will be a lot better.”

Already a few cars eased around “Road Closed” barricades to cross Powell Creek on the new bridge.

Six other bridges are also scheduled for completion this summer, and are in varying stages of completion, Atkins said.

The county has a total 109 bridges on its local inventory that are more than 20 feet in length, 12 bridges have been replaced since 2000. Under Richards’ leadership, 42 bridges were replaced between 1985 and 2000.

Atkins said one factor that has allowed the county to stretch its GARVEE funds is keeping the head work in house.

“We do all the planning and engineering in house and that saves money, and GARVEE has sped up our bridge replacement by five or six years,” he said. “GARVEE has been like a gift to our county.”