Letter from Langdon: Bridge-Fix, at Last

[imgbelt img=brownville-bridge-long520.jpg]Missouri’s overdue for infrastructure repairs. With stimulus funding, there will be major work on the big bridge into (and out of) Atchison County.


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

At last count Missouri was set to receive $637 million for improvements to roads and infrastructure. It is guesstimated that the multiplier effect from that Federal aid would create 14,000 jobs and have a $2.4 billion impact on the state’s economy.

Believe me, we deserve it. Our state bridges, among other things, are in bad shape. The original Missouri repair dilemma identified about 500 bridges, but the longer state government dithered about how to pay for the work, the faster the number needing repair grew. We now have 802 state-maintained bridges slated for repair.

Bridges designated as fixer-uppers are marked with small blue signs that read “Safe & Sound.” (the name for Missouri Department of Transportation’s five-year plan). All it takes is driving the highways here to know that the number of designated bridges will increase, because so many with obvious decay of steel and concrete still don’t have “Safe & Sound” posted at their approaches.

Brownville Bridge, on US 136 at Brownville, Nebraska. It was erected in 1939 at a cost of $708,878.54. The Missouri Highway Commission furnished $50,000, and the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works provided a grant of $311,580. To pay the rest of the cost, Atchison County, Missouri, issued bonds and operated the bridge as a toll crossing to pay expenses. When the bonds were paid off, the state of Missouri assumed responsibility and the Brownville Bridge became a free crossing.

The cost of year-long repairs – to include paint, a new deck, and replacement of one pier — is estimated at $9 million, or nearly 12 times the original construction cost. The 2009 repair work will likely take just about as long as the entire original creation did.

Having a toll bridge wasn’t popular with everyone way back when, because the dollar it cost to cross the river seemed expensive by 1940 standards (about $15 in today’s dollars). One story that’s been told time and again around Langdon is of the three good ole boys who decided to drive over the new bridge just to check it out. When the toll master told them what the cost would be, one Langdon local remarked “I don’t want to buy the damned thing. I just want to cross it!”

The Brownville Bridge has made it easier for people from Atchison County to hold Nebraska jobs, at places like the Cooper Nuclear Power Station near Brownville or the manufacturing plants about 12 miles away in Auburn, Nebraska.  Other  bridges in the area that allow Missourians a river crossing are located 20 miles to the south at Rulo, Nebraska (that bridge slated for complete replacement in 10 years if they have the money) or a relatively new bridge 30 miles north on Highway 2 at Nebraska City.