County seeks preliminary plan for Stone Bridge

Last spring, Stone Bridge was closed due to the structure’s deterioration. This photo was taken in late April 2017 after stone façade was seen crumbling off the side of the bridge. The Historic Preservation Commission is working on a plan to save the historic bridge, and provide a way for people to still use the roadway. (Express file photo)
Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Rose Rohr, representing the Jones County Historic Preservation Commission, met with the Jones County Supervisors during their Sept. 25 meeting to provide an update on Ely’s Stone Bridge outside of Monticello.

     Over about a year and a half, the historic bridge as been in disrepair. The Commission was tasked with coming up with a plan to save or fix the bridge to bring it up to DOT specifications.

     Rohr presented the board with a preliminary drawing of the proposed project, put together by engineer Steve Jacobson with NNW Engineering, Inc. She warned the board that this was not the final drawing, that things could always be tweaked.

     “It gives us something to discuss with the DOT and State Preservation Office,” Rohr said. “But in order to go through with the project, I need your direction.”

     Rohr said the bridge itself could be widened to 22 or 24 feet.

     “We’re working toward a 24-foot bridge,” she said.

     County Engineer Derek Snead commented that a typical roadway over a bridge is 22 feet. The Supervisors felt that a 24-foot structure would be ideal for farm equipment that travels along Stone Bridge Road.

     “I don’t think we want to put up a bridge less than 24 feet with farm traffic,” voiced Supervisor Wayne Manternach.

     The idea is to preserve the original Stone Bridge structure, while building a new bridge over top.

     “We can preserve the old and show off the new,” Rohr explained. “It keeps Stone Bridge in-tact.”

     Rohr said the old bridge is “very solid. Nothing will deter it from the National Register (of Historic Places).”

     The board questioned Rohr about the funding. She said they cannot raise any money until a plan and project estimates are in place.

     “That’s premature,” Rohr said. “We don’t yet know what we’re doing. There are places we can get funding, but we are not going into debt with this. We have to write grants.”

     Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach encouraged Rohr to have some funding avenues in place. “This sounds like an expensive project,” he said.

     In addition to a new bridge, the Commission hopes to rehab the old one as well.

     Snead said it could easily be half a million dollar project. He also cautioned the concept of putting a new structure on top of an old one. “It doesn't matter what you put over the top, it will still sit on a bridge with issues.”

     Snead also disagreed with Rohr’s comment that Stone Bridge is a sound structure. “I don’t think that’s accurate,” he said. Rohr said he engineer looked over the bridge to provide that analysis.

     Rohr tried to put the board at ease, saying the engineer (Jacobson) has experience with historic preservation. “And he is well aware of DOT standards,” she said. “We are not overlooking anything.”

     The board urged Rohr to make sure the original structure was sound enough first, before anything was built on top.

     “People just want something to be done to it,” said Zirkelbach. “But if we spend a lot of money on something like this, is it going to be safe? Is it going to be functional? There are a lot of variables, and I don’t favor spending county road money on something that may not be sound.”

     Rohr said the Commission does not plan on spending county funding on this project “at this point.”

     Supervisor Ned Rohwedder added the bridge’s load bearing capacity also needs to be taken into account. Manternach said he would not vote in favor of a bridge that carried a large weight limit.

     “This bridge is very important,” said Rohr. “The public wants it.”



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