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County Commission Communications
A Periodic Column Written by Ed Douglas, Presiding Commissioner

October, 2022

Livingston County has 120 bridges over 20 feet in length, each of which is inspected by MoDOT (The Missouri Department of Transportation) every two years. We also have about 50 bridges under 20 feet in length for a total of approximately 170 county bridges. When conditions allow, we also use tubes of various lengths to cross smaller creeks. Historically, we have used federal funds allocated to our county each year for bridges through the Federal BRO program. These BRO Federal Funds along with a match of 20% of the project from county funds has allowed us to build one new bridge every 12 to 18 months. This obviously does not allow us to keep up with the bridge needs of a county with 170 bridges. Bridges do not last 170 years which means we have a way to go to catch up.

As a result of the COVID pandemic, the federal government sent us a sizeable amount of funds (ARPA - the American Rescue Plan Act of 21) that may be used for any general county purpose or need. Since we have a significant need to fix county bridges, we have committed a significant portion of this Federal ARPA Fund to bridges. To begin this process, we hired an engineering firm to inspect all our bridges, produce a report on each bridge, and give us recommendations for improvements. From that report and the engineer's recommendations, we were able to select nine of our worst bridges that are in poor condition from the MoDOT inspection that our engineer indicated could be fixed without a total rebuild. This allowed us to save considerable funds by repairing these bridges rather than total rebuilds. Instead of spending $400,000 to $500,000 on a new bridge, we were able to spend about $150,000, on average, repairing these bridges, allowing us to fix many more bridges with limited resources.

These bridges with their fixes are expected to have a life of over 25 years. The total cost of the 9-bridge project is approximately $1,370,000 and should be completed by the middle of next year. These nine bridges are spread out throughout the county and should benefit a large portion of the county.

Additionally, we have committed for a BRO bridge that will be built next year and have also committed to build another bridge out of county funds that will provide the match for another five BRO bridges in the future. Further, the federal government has recently changed the BRO project; and we hope this will allow us to build another three bridges in the next two or three years. Finally, last year, we were able to refurbish another county bridge on an emergency basis. All together this means we have built, or are building or fixing, a total of 15 bridges in a short period of time compared to what might normally be one or two new bridges. (It should be noted that the three hoped for in the new BRO program have not yet been awarded, so this is not a certainty yet.)

Considering that new bridges currently can cost $400,000 to $500,000 to build, I can make the case we are getting $6,000,000 to $7,500,000 of bridge value by building several new bridges and by making major repairs on the rest, at a much lower overall cost. These improvements will go a long way toward improving the overall condition of our county bridges.

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