County Engineer highlights Stone Bridge options

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     During the March 21 Jones County Supervisor meeting, County Engineer Derek Snead presented the board with his thoughts and alternatives concerning the future of Ely’s Stone Bridge outside of Monticello.

     Snead’s memo, which will also be available to those in attendance at the March 28 evening board meeting, outlines the history of Stone Bridge and what repairs have been done to the structure over time.

     Approximately $50,000 has been spent on the bridge since it was paved in 2004. Snead proposed: “How much more money should the Secondary Roads Department/Jones County invest into a 125-year-old structure that was constructed for 1990’s traffic and safety standards?”

     At the present time, due to issues with the stone façade falling off the structure, Secondary Roads placed a 10-ton load limit on Stone Bridge.

     Stone Bridge is also on the National Register of Historic Places. With that in mind, can the bridge be removed or replaced? Citing Iowa Code Section 314.24, Snead said counties “shall to the extent practicable preserve and protect the natural and historic heritage of the state in the design, construction, reconstruction, relocations, repair, or maintenance of roads, streets, or highways.”

     Deconstruction of historic sites is allowed “unless reasonable alternatives at no significantly greater cost are available.”

     “If an alternative is at no greater cost,” suggested Snead, “then it should be considered.”

     He laid out five alternative plans the county could consider:

     One, simply close the bridge to traffic, and remove it from the Secondary Road maintenance schedule. Snead said this would cost the least amount of money to accomplish.

     Two, Provide short-term repairs on the western façade, and improve the drainage along the bridge structure. This could cost roughly $55,000.

     Three, replace the bridge. Remove the existing structure and replace it with a standard bridge, which requires a 30-foot wide structure. This would also utilize the existing roadway. The estimate tied to this option is $500,000.

     Four, Provide long-term repairs in the western façade, with the drainage, waterproof arches, and address the deteriorating mortar issues. The cost estimate, $370,000.

     Five, install a new roadway. This would entail removing Stone Bridge from the county’s inventory, build a new roadway aligned to the previous road, but around the bridge. A new structure over Wet Creek would also be built, all at a cost of $1.2 million.

     Aside from complete removal, each alternative would only benefit the future of Stone Bridge by a few months to three years.

     Some people who are in favor of keeping the bridge have expressed interest in seeing a roadside park. Snead said his cost estimates do not account for such a site.

     “We would not spend Secondary Road money to make a park in Jones County,” he said.

     If the drainage were improved on the bridge, Snead said he felt moisture would still get into the structure no matter what.

     To reinforce the embankment, which is been compromised since the most recent façade issues on the west side of the bridge, Snead said would cost a large amount of funds.

     “There are not a lot of contractors around that do that type of work,” he said.

     With a vehicle count of roughly 110 cars a day, Snead said that’s a very low count for a paved road in Jones County.

     If Secondary Roads were to put the bridge on its five-year construction program, Snead said other named projects would have to go or be postponed.

     “We have a full schedule,” he said. “We could put it at the end, but that would be five or more years down the road before anything would happen.”

     Ultimately, Snead said there is no alternative that would make everyone happy.


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