Starke County Overhauls Bridge Replacement Standards

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Highway Department is upgrading some of its bridge replacement standards. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says plans for the new bridge on 250 West south of Toto Road over Bogus Run include a longer guardrail.

“We’ve been using the minimum standards,” Ritzler told the county commissioners last week. “The last couple bridges we’ve built, even though it’s technically within standards, we think they should be a little bit longer. It’s minimal cost to do that. We’re adding 10 feet at each end. We think that’s much safer.”

Plans also call for a widening of the bridge from 22.5 to 28 feet to accommodate farm equipment. Ritzler says that will be the new minimum standard for all bridges in order to keep guardrails from being torn up and signs from being knocked down. He says the county will save the extra $8 to $10,000 in the long run.

The design plans also include epoxy coating the bridge pilings to extend their life.

“The reason we’re doing that is because the internal cure concrete we’re using has extended the deck life from 25 years to 75 years,” Ritzler said. “Normally we weren’t concerned about the pilings as much. They would last 50 to 60 years, but when you did the deck they would just replace those. But now with the decks lasting a lot longer, we want the pilings to last a lot longer. This will make them last 75 years with that stuff. So we’re going to add that as a minimum standard as well for these bridges.”

Ritzler says the approaches will also be done in eternal cure concrete to extend their lifespan.

As for existing bridges, Ritzler says the concrete decks can be replaced for between $60 and $70,000 each and classified as repair projects. He’s looking into doing so.

The Starke County Commissioners last week approved the bid design. The project will be advertised for a July 18th bid opening, with construction expected to start in early September. Ritzler says that will coincide with the bidding of the next three bridges. He says work is slow for a couple of contractors right now, and hopes that will result in a good deal for the county on multiple projects.

Proceduraly, the bid packets will be sent electronically to prospective contractors, which will also save the county time and money. Sealed bids must still be turned in to the auditor’s office by the deadline.