Some motorists are using the Telegraph Road bridge over the Meramec River.
By Bill Milligan
Bridges along the Meramec River have received a clean bill of health from highway departments and engineers, but at least one south county lawmaker is not satisfied with the process.
During the flooding last month, bridges over the Meramec at Old Gravois, Tesson Ferry, Lemay Ferry and Telegraph roads were either closed or became subject of concern. Each of the bridges were among 350 Missouri bridges the United States Department of Agriculture listed as deficient and, or obsolete in a September 1990 report.
“I’m concerned because nothing more than a visual inspection of the bridge seems to have been done,” said Rep. Zane Yates, R-Oakville. “You can’t see under the bridge yet. There have been no written reports filed and as far as I know no tests that have been done to insure bridge safety.”
The last bridge to open for traffic was the Telegraph Road span. Supports for the bridge’s road surface were still underwater Aug. 18 when traffic began using the 70-year old bridge. It has been submerged for more than three weeks.
“I just don’t think it’s acceptable,” said Yates.
In 1987, Missouri Highway and Transportation Department officials included a new Telegraph bridge in a list of projects that would be completed in voters voters approved Proposition A.
The department will begin letting bids for the new bridge next January, said MHTD spokesman Larry Burke. Work should take two years to complete.
The new structure will be eight feet higher than the old bridge and will be built on the northwest side of the old span. Meanwhile, MHTD is confident of the old bridge’s safety.
“We wouldn’t have reopened any bridges if there were problems,” said Denis Bigley, MHTD engineer. “Maintenance engineers usually make a visually inspection, there are not normally written reports, although there are probably notes in their field diary.”
Inspectors look for vertical and horizontal movement, said Chuck Tayloe, chief bridge engineer for St. Louis County. The county remains the truss bridge on old Gravois Road. Taylor said it had not been damaged by flooding, however some bridges on Meramec Bottom Road were damaged.
“That can be seen if something appears to be out of line,” Tayloe said. “Right now, what we’ve seen is the superstructure once the water goes down. There is always the potential for future damage when a bridge has been underwater for a long time.”