Archive for Thursday, August 9, 2007

KDOT mum about bridge

August 9, 2007

Baldwin City owns the distinction of having the lowest rated bridge in Douglas County. It's the bridge on U.S. Highway 56 just as people enter town from the west.

There are five bridges in the county that are termed "structurally deficient," the same category that the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis that killed five people last week was rated. The scale is based on a 100-point system and the Baldwin bridge, at 11.5, is at the bottom of the scale.

"That bridge definitely has problems," said Don Whisler, KDOT bridge management engineer.

KDOT began reviewing its bridge inspection data last week after the Minnesota disaster. The department announced Wednesday that the six bridges in the state similar in design to the Minneapolis bridge would receive new scrutiny in the next few weeks.

As for the other 104 structurally deficient bridges in the state, including Baldwin City's, the inspection reports are being reviewed and that's expected to be completed by next week.

What that means for the Baldwin bridge, which carries around 5,000 vehicles per day, KDOT spokeswoman Kim Qualls wasn't sure.

"We're still working on it," said Qualls. "We're kind of buried with the bridges right now. We're trying to get information out as quickly as possible."

Whisler hoped motorists would keep the ratings in perspective.

"It means that we have to watch them closer," said Whisler. "It generally means they will be on a one-year inspection cycle instead of a two-year cycle. But, it doesn't mean the bridges are unsafe."

The bridge in question in Baldwin City isn't much of a bridge. Many people don't even realize it is a bridge. It spans tiny Tauy Creek near the Three Sisters Inn. It is also in the plans for a bike/walk trail. Tauy Creek only flows after heavy rainfall.

City Administrator Jeff Dingman is anxious to hear what KDOT has to say about the bridge, both for safety reasons and how it might play into the trail idea.

"As for the bridge, I guess one of them has to score the lowest," said Dingman. "I guess the biggest thing is I'm surprised at how low the score actually was. I am a bit encouraged as maybe this will play into a plan to convince KDOT to enhance the structure to safely allow for pedestrian traffic underneath it as we have a need for a safe way for pedestrians to cross U.S. 56.

"That spot's been pegged as a part of a plan to develop a safe north-south hike/bike trail," he said. "We'll just see how this thing develops."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.