Bridge repair won’t be cheap

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 20, 2006

Replacement or repairs to the West Jackson Street presented a tough issue for the Demopolis City Council Thursday night.

Through the years, the bridge has encountered a lot of wear and tear and was need of attention.

Bob Evans, a representative of Almon and Associates, said replacing the bridge would not be cheap.

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“We are just now getting some costs on this thing,” Evans said. “We had one group give us a cost of about $2.2 million just for the bridge itself. With Earthwork on each side and relocating utilities and a pedestrian walkway it could be between $2.5 and 3 million.”

There was another option, Evans said. Two estimates had already been presented to repair the bridge.

“As far as repairs to the road and bridge, we have been in contact with the State Highway Department and we had two contractors call me,” Evans said. “One said $156,000 and another said $115,000. I have not seen the scope of work on that.”

The current bridge is 160 feet long and the estimates for a replacement was for a 450-foot bridge. The $2.2 million estimate included demolition of the old bridge.

Councilman Melvin Yelverton asked if demolition were really necessary. It may be possible to leave the current bridge and utilities in place, Yelverton said, and avoid the extra cost.

“Would we have to demolish the bridge?” Yelverton asked. “Couldn’t we just cut the road off and leave the bridge and leave all the sewer and water pipes on it?”

Leaving the bridge was an option, Evans said, but they would have to discuss it with the Corp. of Engineers.

Another option in sparing the city extra cost was to obtain grant money. Gaining approval for a grant, Evans said, could be hit or miss.

“I think it would be a political process,” Evans said. “We haven’t even gotten into looking for the money yet other than making calls to the highway department. We really haven’t gotten into all that, but it would probably take a Senator or someone coming up with money.”

When the city began looking at grants, Yelverton said, they should explore all options including the threat of disasters to U.S. Highway 80.

“We might even look at a Homeland Security grant,” Yelverton said. “This is the only way around if U.S. Highway 80 shut down. This is the only way to get around for fire trucks or anything.”

No matter what they decided, Evans said, the problem still stood that the bridge either needed to be repaired or replaced.

Bridges are scaled on a system of one to 10 by the state with 10 being the highest and bridges with a rating of two subject to closure. Currently, the bridge is rated at a low three.

The condition of the bridge and the need for repairs made it seem that the city should look into repairs and continue to explore the possibility of obtaining grant money to replace the bridge down the road.

“It sounds like if we could get the money we could do the replacement, but there is a sense of urgency to fix the bridge,” Williamson said. “It sounds like it would take longer to get the money to replace the bridge than we have.”

Replacing the bridge could also create a financial burden, Councilman Woody Collins said.

“When we say we need to repair the bridge that is $160,000, we are not making that in disposable money,” Collins said. “If we take $150,000 to $160,000 to repair it, then we are going to be stuck using it.”

Repairs to the bridge would not just be a patch job, Evans said. They would restore the bridge to 100 percent.

“It is going to fix the bridge,” Evans said. “We are not trying to do something that will last a month or two.”

The council chose to explore their options and bring the situation before the Finance Committee.