The Hutchinson News
Enterprise Township farmer Kenneth McFarland thinks he could collect at least 200 signatures on a petition urging Reno County to maintain a bridge on Clark Road, west of Fairview Road.
That may not be enough to reverse the tide.
The Reno County Public Works Department has equipment on site and will begin removing the bridge over Salt Creek on Monday.
A new bridge is estimated at $555,000, and Enterprise Township Clerk Bill Zimmerman understands the reality:
"You can't spend over a half-million dollars for a few people," he said.
Aging timber bridges
The Clark Road bridge will be the third timber bridge over 50 years old removed this year in rural Reno County. No replacement is planned currently for any of those bridges.
On April 25, an overloaded vehicle crossing the Longview Road bridge over the Ninnescah River severely damaged the bridge. The deck and stringer supports were "severely displaced" and two pier beams were broken, according to a report by BG Consultants Inc.'s Sid Arpin, in his capacity as county engineer.
Apparently, about a 44-ton vehicle went across the bridge, which had a posted limit of 17 tons for tractor-trailers.
The Longview Road bridge was removed.
Flooding this spring lifted the span of High Point Road bridge in Salt Creek Township. In addition, the bridge substructure was in "a severe state of deterioration," Arpin wrote in a June report.
That bridge came down.
Alternative to West Fourth
The High Point Road bridge is not far from the Clark Road bridge.
Non-through roads - such as Fairview, Salem and Blanchard - also affect traffic flow and make Clark Road a key rural route, according to McFarland.
There are probably seven farmers in the Clark Road bridge area, Zimmerman said.
However, a number of people working in Hutchinson use the unpaved Clark, instead of the paved West Fourth, to go to and from work, both McFarland and Zimmerman said.
Farmers would prefer to use Clark to West Fourth, they said.
Driving farm equipment on West Fourth risks irritating motorists. With deeper ditches on West Fourth, the farmer can't pull off the road, Zimmerman pointed out.
Zimmerman said he can understand the county's dilemma because of its hundreds of aging bridges, but he and McFarland weren't pleased by the lack of notice from the county about the Clark Road bridge's fate.
"That's probably a legitimate complaint or comment," said Reno County Commission Chairman Dan Deming.
Bypassing the barricade
The Clark Road bridge was rated in "poor" condition by engineers years before the August 2013 flood.
It was a three-ton bridge, the lowest level a bridge can be and still remain open, said Reno County Public Works Director David McComb.
Typically, bridges are inspected every other year. Because of its condition, the Clark Road bridge was inspected annually.
The August flood washed away a beam and two timber pilings.
People continued to drive across the bridge despite the barricades.
Arpin's Sept. 25 report describing the flood damage and the structure's deterioration propelled Public Works to plan removal of the bridge.
Deming said it was a concern that the bridge was being used despite the engineer's critical evaluation and barricades, and he understood Public Works' motivation to remove the structure.
Arpin estimated that a concrete haunch slab bridge replacement would cost $555,000.
The steep bank on Salt Creek rules out a cheaper low-water crossing alternative on Clark Road. More minimal repairs aren't on the table, either.
"We just can't go out and halfway the deal," McComb said.
More bridges vulnerable
Near the end of this year, Reno County Public Works is expected to complete an in-house comprehensive inspection of bridges. There are more than 800 structures.
Wooden bridges on township roads are the ones most likely to be affected by the inspection, McComb said.