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La Plata bridge to see new life

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad Bridge on Route D in La Plata was formally dedicated on September 24, 1936. (KTVO/Ashley Hoak)

A typical bridge in Missouri is expected to have a lifespan of 50 years before repairs are needed.

However, one local bridge is 30 years over that limit, and little to no improvements have been made.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad Bridge on Route D in La Plata was formally dedicated on September 24, 1936.

The bridge falls under Missouri Department of Transportation jurisdiction, meaning MoDOT is responsible for its care and upkeep.

La Plata Mayor Lois Bragg says that up until this point in time, only "band-aid fixes" have been made to the span.

MoDOT is tasked with maintaining nearly 10,400 bridges across the state.

Currently, 883 bridges in the state have received a "poor" rating from the Federal Highway Administration, which includes the bridge in La Plata.

However, area residents can now rest a bit easier - improvements are slated to take place during fiscal year 2020.

Rehab to the bridge was recently announced as part of MoDOT's Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

MoDOT Engineer Amy Crawford says the BNSF Railroad Bridge is an integral part of life in La Plata.

"It's a bridge that's important to the community. It really ties the north end of town and the south end of town together for vehicles, but also, there are a lot of pedestrians that cross that bridge."

Lois Bragg, who was elected mayor in April 2014, was one of the main forces behind the campaign to better the bridge.

After confrontation's with past MoDOT personnel and state lawmakers over the condition of the span, Bragg worked to engage area residents to help show those opposed to fixing the bridge that improvements were necessary.

Community members then worked to swamp the MoDOT website to submit votes to name the BNSF bridge to an improvement list.

In July 2014, Crawford informed Bragg that the extension was named to the "Moving Forward" priority list.

However, the hope of fixing the bridge was short lived.

"People may remember that this was CA-7 on the list that went to a vote of the people, but then failed several years ago."

On August 5, 2014, the "Moving Forward" tax issue was eliminated.

As months passed, the bridge continued to deteriorate.

In December 2014, MoDOT vehicle weight restrictions were posted on the bridge.

Still to this day, no vehicles weighing over 20 tons are permitted to cross the bridge, and truck traffic is limited.

For the past three years, Bragg has worked tirelessly to facilitate improvements.

Just recently, a motorist was forced close to the edge of the bridge where rebar was exposed.

As a result, a tire on that vehicle was ruined.

A few days after that incident, it was announced that the railroad bridge was named to the 2020 STIP.

Crawford says that while improvements may be a few years out, MoDOT will do its best to keep motorists safe.

"In a couple of years, we will have a new bridge over that route. Until then, we are going to do our best to maintain that bridge."

The projected price-tag on the bridge rehab is $1.8 million.

Mayor Lois Bragg adds that she is very happy improvements to this bridge will soon be taking place.

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