Bridge repair costs could soar

The East Chestnut Bridge in Arkansas City continues to be a concern for Cowley County commissioners, who heard a report on it Tuesday at their morning meeting. 

Arkansas City Police Chief Dan Ward, acting as vice city administrator in the absence of city manager Nick Hernandez, and Ark City city commissioner Duane Oestmann attended the meeting so they could be part of the discussion.

County administrator Lucas Goff told commissioners that he had engineers and public works personnel look at the west approach to the bridge. 

“Damages are substantial,” Goff said, estimating it would cost $600,000 to $800,000 to make the repairs and would be only a “temporary solution.” To mitigate water flow at that spot, the engineers suggested it would take river weirs and rock berms to train the river. 

If there is another flood, Goff said, the repairs could all be wiped out, as they were when the repairs to the west bank of the river were made after the first flood. 

“There is 300 feet of unprotected property” at that point,” Goff said. According to the engineers, the Walnut River is on a bend and wants to move west. It is trying to create an oxbow lake there, so there are no guarantees that any repairs to the approach will last.

In fact, Goff said the bridge itself sustained little damage. 

He listed three options for action the commission might take:

1. Fix the bridge and the approach, which would cost $600,000 to $800,000 and would be good for about 30 to 60 years.

2. Build a new bridge for about $2 million. That would be good for sixty to 100 years.

3. Take down the bridge, which would cost between $100,000 and $150,000. That price does not include the cost of moving the city’s water utilities, which are affixed to the south side  of the bridge.

Oestmann said he was concerned that the county would just abandon the bridge as happened with the West Chestnut bridge. 

Goff suggested getting a Bridge Life Cycle Cost Analysis done so commissioners have a clearer idea of the life cycle of the bridge and the costs associated with it. The study would cost between $5,000 and $7,000.

The commissioners tabled the request until their July 2 meeting.

At the Arkansas City City Commission meeting Tuesday night, Ward told commissioners about the choices. 

Oestmann said he thought the county was thinking only of dismantling the bridge.

Commissioner Jay Warren said he didn’t think the county was taking into account how many people use the bridge. Ward said the police estimated about 2,000 vehicles cross it a day.

Warren also said he’d like to know how the commissioners decide which county roads to repair.

Commissioner Kanyon Gingher reminded the board that even if the East Chestnut bridge were removed, there are ways across the river to the north and to the south of it — U.S. 166 and Madison.

In a phone conversation Friday, Goff said the county has the ultimate financial responsibility for the bridge, but the commissioners are interested in seeing if Ark City would want to help pay for for work on the bridge.

A considerable rise in the mill levy would be inevitable if the county were to try to raise the funds to replace it, Goff said.

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