Supervisors not willing to foot $2 million Stone Bridge price tag

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     County Engineer Derek Snead informed the Jones County Supervisors at their Dec. 14 that he’d received the final report regarding Stone Bridge.

     The report was a collaboration between Atkinson-Noland & Associates, Inc. out of Colorado and Origin Design from Dubuque.

     Supervisor John Schlarmann said he’d reached out to Conservation Director Brad Mormann to see what it might cost to turn the Stone Bridge area into a roadside park. Mormann was unable to get back to Schlarmann prior to the board meeting.

     “I’m not against that,” noted Supervisor Joe Oswald of the idea, “but we have to keep in mind all of those involved.”

     Oswald said Jones County Historic Preservation, led by Rose Rohr, needs to be brought into the conversation.

     “We did turn it (Stone Bridge) over to them,” he continued. “If we go a different route, we need to bring them in.”

     Schlarmann asked who would be in charge of taking care of the bridge for the foreseeable future.

     Snead said the biggest issue going forward is the stone structure, which would require ongoing maintenance.

     “In your opinion,” proposed Oswald to the board, “do you ever see traffic going over this bridge again? Do you see the county spending $2 million?”

     It was the consensus of the board that the county would not foot the bill.

     “I wouldn't spend $1 million to get to where we’re at right now,” offered Schlarmann of reopening the bridge to some sort of traffic.

     He asked Snead what type of vehicles he anticipated could utilize Stone Bridge at the present time.

     “If we spend $250,000, can we drive a car across it?” asked Schlarmann.

     “It needs to have the structural components (looked at) before any weight can safely travel (across it),” noted Snead. “It’s the main components that allow weight on it. Until that happens, no amount of weight with any reliability can safely travel across it.”

     He added that any amount of weight would likely increase the gap in the bridge on the west side.

     “It’s difficult to say how much we need to spend if we replaced anything,” continued Snead.

     He told the board more imminent repairs are needed on the entire west side.

     “It will continue to fall off. We need to replace the entire spandrel wall,” suggested Snead.

     Assistant Engineer Todd Postel threw out half a million dollars as a project estimate.

     Snead offered some brief history of the road going over the bridge, noting that the road was paved in 2003. Postel said a paved surface had to go across the bridge, explaining he couldn’t just design a project for a newly paved road with gravel over the bridge. And he said with a paved roadway, guardrail was a must on the bridge as well.

     “Concrete sheds water differently than gravel,” said Snead of the water leaking into the stone structure. “That expedited the separation between the spandrels. It’s difficult with an historic structure for upkeep and maintenance.”

     “What would it cost to go to the east side and allow ATV traffic to cross?” asked Schlarmann.

     Snead gave an example of the pedestrian bridge added to phase one of the Wapsipinicon Trail Project. That steel structure cost $90,000. Postel said that some paving, riprap, and some “associated work” would need to be done as well, bringing the total cost between $150,000 and $200,000.

     “People who have property on each side (of the bridge) want to get to both sides,” urged Schlarmann. “A lot of people have asked about bikes and ATVs.”

     Snead said there are some funding cycles available for such projects such as TAP (Transportation Alternatives Program), as well as grants that Conservation has been successful in obtaining. He said the federal infrastructure bill might also provide funding; however, it’s too early to know what that funding might entail or what it might support.

     “We need an immediate fix,” pushed Schlarmann.

     Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach said he’s heard from some people “who don’t care one way or another” about the historic structure. “They just want a road. But it comes down to how much money we want to spend when we have other roads falling apart.”

     Electronic copies of the Stone Bridge report are available upon request.


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