Dec. 5, 2017 city council meeting

The city’s bid for state and federal dollars to fund replacement of the Pine River bridge on North Main Street in 2020 has been rejected, announced City Manager Kurt Giles at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Never fear, though, as the bridge may very well be on the 2021 list of things to do, Giles said. It’s also possible that one of the scheduled projects for 2020 will be delayed, and our bridge could move onto the list of things to do for that year.

Built circa 1955, the Pine River bridge is in no danger of falling down but is near the end of its lifespan. “It’s not like we’re on the edge or the cusp,” Public Services Director Keith Risdon said.

A routine 2016 examination of the bridge turned up signs of decay, but other bridges in Michigan were deemed more worthy of replacement. Another inspection will occur next year.

State government changed its method of evaluating bridges last year, and the Pine River bridge capacity to handle large trucks was downgraded from 77 tons to 65 tons. New weight limits have been posted, but there is no guarantee that trucking companies will comply.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Mark Abbott contacted local haulers to tell them about the change, Giles said. But nothing besides fear of being caught by a Gratiot County Sheriff’s Department weigh master can stop overweight trucks from using the bridge.

Once the bridge makes it onto the replacement list, hopefully next year for replacement in 2021, the federal and state governments will pay 95 percent of the cost, Giles said. St. Louis property owners would be responsible for five percent plus engineering costs.

Total cost is likely to be in the millions of dollars. A similar bridge in Roscommon County is expected to cost $1.86 million to replace in 2020.

Here’s how bridge replacement works in Michigan: Municipalities submit requests to MDOT for preventative maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement. MDOT personnel evaluate requests and prioritize bridges most in need of attention. But they only have so much money to spend on bridges, and some requested projects inevitably don’t make the cut.

Twenty-five Michigan bridges are on the list to be replaced in 2020 at a total cost of $41.5 million. Six more will be rehabilitated. And 48 will get preventative maintenance. The most expensive replacement is $5.45 million for a bridge in Ingham County. The cheapest is $340,000 to replace a bridge in Mason County.

Replacement of St. Louis’ North Main bridge will consume an entire construction season, with the road being closed to thru traffic throughout the process, Giles said.

Mirror Mirror

In other bridge news, a fix will soon be installed to give drivers stopped on Center at North Main a better view of southbound traffic. Mayor Jim Kelly suggested that a mirror be installed on east side of North Main at the intersection with Center and angled so that drivers stopped on Center can see southbound traffic reflected in the mirror.

The new bridge, when we get it, is expected to be wider, so the mirror will probably not be needed after new bridge is constructed.

Leaf Pickup

Department of Public Works Superintendent Mark Abbott told city council that “we had our best leaf pickup season since I’ve been here.” And that goes back 18 years.

Abbott thanked the council for buying an Old Dominion Brush Company 25 yard leaf shredder with a diesel engine for about $50,000, which helped a lot. It replaced a modified 1976 sewer truck from the City of Detroit for which Abbott couldn’t get parts anymore.

DPW workers also used a 25-yard-capacity Tarrant leaf shredder that St. Louis bought from Alma. Abbott expects to replace it in about 5 years.

Equipment breakdowns were common in years past during leaf pickup time, Abbott said. But there were no  breakdowns this year.

“Weather played a big factor,” Abbott said in an email. “Leaves fell more steadily instead of all in a short period of time.” Minimal rain helped, too.

In years past, Abbott had just one leaf shredder and had to run it from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays to finish on time. That resulted in just 20 hours of overtime for leaf pickup this year, which is also a record in Abbott’s experience.

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