HAZELGREEN, Mo. - The Interstate 44 outer road bridge over the Gasconade River near Hazelgreen will remain closed indefinitely due to a lack of funding to repair the bridge or build a new one, Missouri Department of Transportation officials announced today.
MoDOT closed the bridge Dec. 18 after an inspection determined the bridge was unsafe for travel. Since then, MoDOT bridge engineers have been busy inspecting the bridge and developing cost estimates to either repair the bridge or build a new one at the same location.
"The repairs needed to reopen the bridge to traffic are much more extensive and expensive than we anticipated," said David Silvester, MoDOT's Central District engineer. "At a minimum, it would cost more than $1 million to repair the current bridge, and then it could only carry limited weight loads. That's money we just don't have in our budget right now and don't expect to have anytime in the near future."
The least-cost option to open the bridge to traffic would involve MoDOT crews performing the repair work at an estimated cost of up to $1.5 million depending on how long the work would take, which could be up to 11 months.
Even if the department had the money to spend on repairing the bridge, Silvester said, the structure would still have a bad deck and be limited to carrying loads of 20 tons or less, meaning tractor trailers would be prohibited from crossing the bridge.
"That would be a problem given that this bridge is located on the route we use to detour traffic off of I-44 when there's an incident," Silvester said. "The I-44 corridor carries a lot of truck traffic."
In addition, pulling MoDOT crews from other jobs to fix the bridge would mean about 100 bridges in the central Missouri region would go without any maintenance or repairs over the 11-month period.
MoDOT officials looked at other options to fix the 90-year-old bridge, but the costs for those were even higher. For example, the price to build a new bridge at the location would be roughly $4 million to $4.5 million.
"With the severe decline in funding for transportation, we knew the day would come when we'd have to close a road or bridge for a lengthy timeframe, but that day came faster than we expected," Silvester said.
MoDOT officials recently announced the department's construction budget would fall to $325 million in 2017, an amount less than the $485 million needed to maintain the state's road and bridges. Moving forward, the department will focus its limited resources on keeping approximately 8,000 miles of Missouri's 34,000-mile state highway system in good condition. The 8,000 miles make up the state's primary roads and are the highways that connect cities across the state.
"Our funding shortfall requires us to have to make tough choices about how we spend the money we have, and we know some of those decisions will have a negative impact on the folks we serve," Silvester said.
For now, the bridge along historic Route 66 will remain intact and in place, but closed to traffic. Motorists can avoid the bridge closure by traveling on I-44. In the event of an incident on I-44, the westbound detour around the bridge is Route 133 to Route FF to Route T. The eastbound detour is Route T to Route FF to Route 133.
For more information, visit http://www.modot.org//central or call 1-888-ASK-MoDOT (1-888-275-6636).