(St.Joseph,MO) About a mile of I-229 was shut down Monday morning as MODOT to began their biennial inspection of the double decker bridge.
"Every two years we inspect bridges, it's a federal requirement for safety. We look at every bridge to make sure they are safe for the public to drive on,"MODOT Northwest District Bridge Engineer Scott Stephens said.
Tonya Lohman, District Maintenance and Traffic Engineer, said all ramps from 36 Highway, up to Highland Street will be shut down for several days while crews evaluate the the 40 year old bridge.
"Each one of those ramps is their own bridge, and you have different members that need to be inspected. You have to get up close and physical," Lohman said.
While the bridge is closed off for the inspection, MODOT crews plan to take advantage of the empty highway by doing maintenance work. Crews will be replacing street lights; patching cracks in the concrete; cleaning out storm drains; replacing road signs and cleaning debris off the bridge.
"The inspection is the number one priority, but because we have to close it down to be able to do all those elemental inspections and actually look at each and every piece on all those bridge ramps and both sets of bridges. It's important for us to try to get all the maintenance work done at the same time, so they don't have to do two closures,"Lohman said.
MODOT engineers said an average bridge with a moderate amount of traffic can typically last between 50 to 75 years, before it needs to be replaced. However Stephens said exposure to the harsh elements and additional moisture from the river has caused the I-229 bridge to erode at a faster rate.
"We're doing a lot of deck work on it. When you start doing deck work, it (the decay) just seems to build more rapid[ly],"Stephens said. “With the age of the bridge, the concrete is starting to crack in places, the corrosion has accelerated where it’s exposed. We try to get in and seal those areas and paint them, just trying to fight off the exposure to weather more than anything.”
Stephens said there is no immediate concern surrounding the stability of the bridge, but it will need attention in the future. Road crews will be making repairs all week, but long term planning will take more time and be a little more costly.
“We’re at this point that within this next 10 year cycle of us planning roads, looking at what we want to do in our state system.We’re going to have to put about $58 million into it and that will just buy another 20 years,” Lohman said.
In July MODOT launched a study to evaluate the overall structure of the bridge and surrounding areas including the riverfront.That study will provide the state and the city with a cost breakdown for potential renovation options going forward with the I-229 bridge.
Lohman estimates it would cost several hundred thousand dollars to completely replace the bridge. The final plans for the future of the bridge will depend on a collaborative effort between MODOT and the city of St.Joseph.
MODOT expects to have all bridge repairs completed and the roadways open by early Thursday evening.