Brown County is looking at more than $9 million worth of bridge work needing to be done in the next nine years, according to a report by USI Consultants.
But Brown County Highway Superintendent Mike Magner said the total price tag is likely to go down because some projects will be done locally and not to federal standards.
“Not all local bridges have to be that extensive of a project, so a local project typically costs less than what these numbers will show,” Magner said of the report.
The report was presented to the Brown County Commissioners on Aug. 2. USI Consultant Engineer Rob Coop said they had developed a replacement list of 14 bridges, a rehab list of six bridges, and a deck replacement rehab list of three bridges.
The costs go out to 2027 in the report.
The report estimated that replacing 14 bridges in the county over the next nine years would cost $7.5 million. The cost to rehab six bridges would be $1.8 million. The deck rehabilitation or replacement of three bridges was estimated at $625,000.
Brown County Auditor Beth Mulry said the cumulative bridge fund had $1,039,164.42 in it at the end of July. That has accumulated over the past four years, possibly longer, she said.
Magner said that last year’s cumulative bridge rate collection brought in around $220,000 to the fund.
“That’s why it’s a cum(ulative) fund; we have to let it build up,” he said.
“You start looking at that, you might get one average-size structure a year if we had no other expenses out of the account. Our routine maintenance, all of the maintenance also has to come out of that fund; it’s not just new construction.”
Getting all the work done will be a “massive undertaking,” but it’s “typical,” Magner said during the commissioners meeting.
“Those (prices) do assume the higher federal replacement rates for dollars, so some of those can come down, but it’s a massive undertaking. It’s typical for every county,” he said.
Money may also be available for bridge repairs through federal grants awarded through the Indiana Department of Transportation, Magner said.
“We can only do that whenever there are funds available. Those aren’t available all the time. …. There are times where they may only ask for new projects once every three or four years. We just have to wait until the next time around when they start looking at it,” he said.
However, federal money often comes with a longer timeline, he said. “When you get federal funds, it’s usually for five or eight years down the road before those construction dollars are actually available, because it takes that long to get it designed, get all of the approvals.”
The cumulative bridge fund is flexible, and there’s the possibility it could be increased by the Brown County Council, but that would require the council to cut from another a fund, Magner said, “because it falls under the property tax cap, unfortunately, since it’s a cum(ulative) fund. If we were to increase cum(ulative) bridge, they would have to cut some other fund to stay under the overall county cap.”
The highway department gets zero dollars from property taxes to pay for road and bridge repairs, he added.
The priority list in the report is not set in stone, Magner said. According to the report’s introduction, the bridges were prioritized based upon condition, traffic volume and load rating.
The report also stated that there are also 20 structures needing “some form of local maintenance.”
“Some of those may move based on some other issues or funding,” Magner said.
“One of these we may pick as a federal aid project, so we’ll focus it if we can make it last five years instead of two years, then get federal funding.” He said it may cost more to do a bridge as federal project, since it has to be done to federal standards, but 80 percent of those costs would be reimbursed that way.
“It’s under a half-million dollars, it’s not worth the time and expense to do it to federal standards, but if there are other bridges, it can make sense,” he said.
Magner showed the commissioners photos of a bridge on Grandview Road. He said the bridge deck on top was not in bad condition, but the steel structures underneath had problems due to moisture. He showed photos of parts underneath the bridge that had rusted away.
“We went in and did temporary shoring where we can keep the weight limit up where school buses and some trucks could still go across it, but this is something that is going to be in our replacement improvement plan,” he said.
“We had not really planned on this, because that bridge should have been good for another 25 to 30 years.”
Magner said his department would start preparing a detailed bridge improvement plan.
A bridge is any structure that spans 20 feet. Those are included in this report. Magner said the county probably has twice as many smaller structures than actual bridges. Repairs to those structures also come out of the cumulative bridge fund.
“Or we can use motor vehicle highway funds, but still if it’s a structure, we try to pay for it out of the bridge fund,” he said.
This report is required by the federal government to be done every two years, but some bridges in the county, like the Bean Blossom Covered Bridge, are inspected once a year or even every six months depending on their condition.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Bridge priority schedule” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Priority schedule for bridge replacement
- Country Club Road over Owl Creek, 0.4 mile south of Helmsburg Road
- Mt. Liberty Road over Gnaw Bone Creek, 0.1 mile south of State Road 46 East
- Gold Point Road over north fork of Salt Creek, 0.1 mile west of Upper Salt Creek Road
- Elkinsville Road over middle fork of Salt Creek, 0.1 mile south of Blue Creek Road
- North Shore Drive over branch of Bean Blossom Creek, 0.4 mile west of Bear Creek Road
- Crooked Creek Road over Crooked Creek, 1.2 miles north of T.C. Steele Road
- Jackson Creek Road over Jackson Creek, 0.3 mile west of Yellowwood Lake Road
- Blue Creek Road over Little Blue Creek, 1.2 miles north of Elkinsville Road
- Doty Road over Mount Liberty Creek, 0.1 mile south of Mt. Liberty Road
- Orchard Road over middle fork of Salt Creek, 0.1 mile east of State Road 135 South
- Bear Creek Road over Bear Creek, 0.5 mile north of Allender Trace
- Wallow Hollow Road over Clay Lick Creek, 0.1 mile north of Clay Lick Road.
- Bellsville Pike over middle fork of Salt Creek, 0.1 mile south of Harrison Ridge Road
- Hoover Road over east fork of Salt Creek, 1.1 miles east of Sweetwater Trail
TOTAL ESTIMATED COST: $7,546,000 — Price should decrease when some bridges are done as local projects instead of federal projects, according to Brown County Highway Superintendent Mike Magner.
Priority schedule for bridge rehabilitation
- Covered Bridge Road over Bean Blossom Creek, 0.7 mile south of State Road 45
- Grandview Road over south middle fork of Salt Creek, 0.1 mile east of Bellsville Pike
- T.C. Steele Road over north fork of Salt Creek, 0.2 mile south of State Road 46 West
- Gatesville Road over north fork of Salt Creek, 0.1 mile west of Sweetwater Trail
- Green Valley Road over north fork of Salt Creek, 2 miles west of State Road 46 West
- Kirks Ford Road over middle fork of Salt Creek, 0.01 mile south of Elkinsville Road
TOTAL ESTIMATED COST: $1,818,750
Priority schedule for deck rehabilitation/replacement
- Webber Hill Road over north fork of Salt Creek, 0.01 mile west of Upper Salt Creek Road
- North Shore Drive over Bear Creek, 0.01 mile west of Bear Creek Road
- Plum Creek Road over Plum Creek, 0.3 mile east of State Road 45
TOTAL ESTIMATED COST: $625,000
Source: USI Consultants Inc.