Workers with Springfield's Hartman Construction steady a 95-foot I-beam weighing 63,000 pounds as it is lowered into place at the construction site of the new bridge on Highway RA near the Baptist Camp access. (File photo)

Thanks in part to this winter’s relatively mild weather, plenty of headway has been made on the construction a new bridge over the Big Piney River on Highway RA near the Baptist Camp access.

On Wednesday, workers with Springfield’s Hartman Construction helped put in place six concrete I-beams that will make up the bulk of the new structure.

The 95-foot long, 63,000-pound beams were manufactured at Coreslab Structures in Marshall, and transported to Texas County by specially designed trucks. Drivers operating the trucks backed their lengthy loads down RA from U.S. 63 to the bridge construction site before a massive crane — provided by Skyview Construction and Engineering in Labadie, Mo., in the St. Louis area — hoisted them onto vertical supports.

Steve Brown of Springfield’s Great River Associates engineering firm said the project was made possible by the Off-System Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (also known as BRO), which uses federal funds distributed at the state level for the replacement and improvement of county-owned bridges. BRO basically provides in the neighborhood of 90-percent of the cost.

“Texas County’s commissioners have been instrumental in making this happen, and MoDOT people have really been working on it, too,” Brown said. “So far it’s been a real good job.”

The design of the new bridge takes into consideration the Big Piney’s estimated 100-year flood level, which Brown said would result in 21,000 cubic feet of water traveling through the bridge area every second.

“Hydrology is not an exact science,” Brown said, “and there really isn’t 100 years worth of information to go by yet. And you may not have a flood like that every 100 years – the point is there’s a one-percent chance each year.

“But there could be one in April and another just like it in May.”

Texas County associate commissioner John Casey owns land on the river not far upstream from Baptist Camp. He recalls last April’s flooding, which undoubtedly approached the 100-year levels.

“There was a whole lot of water in that river,” he said. “I had to move some of my fence lines.”

Brown said weather has been a major factor in the smooth progression of the bridge construction.

“We got it out of the river before the heavy spring rains, and that’s a big milestone in the project,” Brown said. “It’s always good to have nice weather instead of fighting it.”

The goal for the opening of the new bridge is March 1.

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