The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission did not award a contract for rehab work for the Chester Bridge when it met July 1.
The bids surpassed the Missouri Department of Transportation’s programmed budget for the project, according to a MoDOT release.
“They were going to do a bunch of repair work to the bridge but the bids came back too high,” said Perry County presiding commissioner Mike Sauer.
Four bids, ranging from $11.6 to $18.1 million were received, according to Mark Croarkin, southeast district engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation.
The program amount was $9.8 million, though Croarkin said that amount doesn’t necessarily reflect the estimate.
Missouri and Illinois get together and see what is affordable, according to Croarkin.
The low bid received was an estimated $11.67 million, which was from Cekra Inc., which is based in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Croarkin said the other bid amounts were $16.9 million, $17.4 million and $18.1 million, respectively.
“We’re out there pretty regular with deck repairs,” Croarkin noted.
The scope of the project for 2021 included replacing and reinforcing steel as well as painting, Croarkin said. The outside four or five feet of the bridge would have been replaced.
“We’re going to take a step back and look at our options,” Croarkin said. “Things get rejected from time to time. We want to look at all of our rehab options.”
This includes possibly looking at a different scope of work.
The next inspection for the Chester Bridge is scheduled for November. This is done once a year, Croarkin noted.
“Overall, it falls into a category we call poor,” noted Croarkin. “There were a handful of items we had to repair.”
The Chester Bridge, initially opened in 1942, spans the Mississippi River and connects Perry County to Chester, Illinois in Randolph County. An estimated 7,000 vehicles cross the two 11-foot lanes of traffic per day.
“A lot of things showing some age,” Croarkin said, though there are other bridges in the state in a similar situation. “(But this is) no different than several other trusses across the state. We’re making sure we’re keeping it safe for the traveling public.”
A replacement bridge is estimated to cost about $140 million and this would be cost share between the Missouri and Illinois departments of transportation. Work could possibly begin as early as 2025. Planning for a new bridge is progressing, according to Croarkin.
The Illinois Department of Transportation committed $63 million toward the cost of a bridge replacement in its fiscal year 2022-2027 Rebuild Illinois Highway Improvement Program. The Missouri Department of Transportation, along with the Federal Highway Administration and IDOT has nearly completed a location study and environment assessment for improvements to the two Route 51 bridges - which include the Chester Bridge and Horse Island Chute Bridge.
In the meantime, Croarkin said several repair possibilities will be considered.
“There are a lot of options on the table,” he said. “We need to time to evaluate the best option. We’re going to do everything we can to reduce impact to users.”
MoDOT plans to reassess the situation later this fall.
Sauer thinks the July 1 announcement on rejecting a rehab contract this could possibly lead to a weight limit on the bridge.
“How many trucks can be on the bridge at one time? What exceeds weight limit?” Sauer said.
Sauer said he was told estimates of commerce traveling across the bridge daily was about $200,000, though this was only with Gilster Mary Lee and T.G. fleets. He believes the economic impact is closer to $900,000.
The bridge has been reduced to one-lane several times for repair work and closed entirely on occasion for flooding. This includes closures two times in the past
“If you’ve got a bridge that has a safety issue I would hope you would address regardless,” Sauer said.
Sauer said the county has a meeting with MoDOT in August to evaluate transportation matters. The county will likely get an update then regarding repairs, Sauer said.
For additional information on the bridge, go to modot.org/chesterbridge. The bridge repairs are one of several projects in MoDOT’s Southeast District, which includes 14 counties.