The Columbia City Council is expected to hold a public hearing on the replacement of at least two MKT trail bridges with the option of a third if funds are available. Mike Snyder with Columbia Parks and Rec spoke with ABC 17 News about the aging bridges
“The last study was done in 2013 and in that study they identified several bridges that need to be replaced over the next 20 years,” Snyder said. “The three most important ones being bridge five, seven and eight.”
On Monday, the council will hear a resolution setting the date for a public hearing on March 20. The resolution declares the need for the proposed replacement of bridges 5, 7 and, if funding allows, 8 on the MKT nature/fitness trail. The hearing will also estimate the costs of the project and from where the city will get the money.
The bridges are safe for pedestrians but can no longer accommodate motor vehicle like maintenance trucks or ambulances. Snyder said not being able to take gravel trucks over the bridges makes it difficult to maintain sections of the trail.
Bridges five and seven are in the most of repairs according to Snyder. He said the Parks department has put “band-aid” fixes on those two bridges over the last few years.
“They have already had work done to them to nurse them along until they can be replaced,” Snyder said. “We’ve added all this riprap here, the structural members. You can see towards the end we’ve added retaining walls on the ends to keep it from eroding away at the end of the bridges.”
The trail will be detoured for about three months in late fall and winter to limit the impact for users.
“I think the MKT is probably one of the most popular amenities for recreation and we have thousands of users every month,” Snyder said. “We certainly want to keep it open and keep everyone enjoying the trail so whatever we can do to keep them maintained and in a usable condition.”
The project has not gone out to bid yet but Snyder said they hope the new bridges will be styled in a way to remind visitors of the trail’s history.
“We envision they will be a prefabricated bridge but in the old architecture style,” Snyder said. “So it’ll be that rusty corten steel that has that rusty look like an old bridge but it’ll be a new bridge and designed to carry a heavy load so we can get gravel trucks up and down the trail and also emergency vehicles as well as pedestrians. We like them to have the character of the old railroad bridges.”
In November, Gov. Jay Nixon designated almost $3 million to be used for 31 parks across the state, including $310,00 to be used in Columbia. According to the council memo, the total project budget is estimated at $380,000 including $150,000 from the Recreational Trail Program Grant, the money designated by Nixon. The other $230,000 would come from the 2015 parks sales tax. In the long term, the parks department expects a decrease in annual expenses associated with the bridges.