Residents near the 245th Street bridge in rural Muscatine County attended the supervisors meeting Monday, Jan. 23, to ask the supervisors to repair or replace the bridge.
Dusty Buffington was the first resident to speak on the issue. He sent the supervisors pictures of the bridges current condition saying it was recently limited to five tons.
“And we’re concerned about our access in the future,” Buffington added. “
If the county decides to vacate the road there, it would prevent landowners in the area from having access to their property on both sides of the Cedar River and prevent emergency personnel such as the fire department or ambulance from getting to an incident down there, he said.
People own cabins along the riverfront or bring their campers to the land they own down there in the summer, Buffington said.
“How long is that bridge?” Supervisor chairman Scott Sauer asked Buffington.
Buffington said it was about 130 feet.
Residents in the area went to other counties to see how they were replacing bridges like this, he added. Buffington gave the supervisors examples before that meeting. One was 60 feet and the other was 90 foot.
Brian Keierleber, the engineer for Buchanan County, came up with a new way to replace bridges in Iowa with the same issue as the bridge on 245th Street, Buffington said.
“What can you tell us about the waterways that each of these bridge or culverts passes over?” Supervisor Nathan Mather asked Buffington. “How do they compare to the terrain down there at 245th?”
Water does go over the bridge down on 245th Street but in the examples of the new bridges Buffington gave the supervisors there wasn’t any standing water or water over the bridge, Buffington said. Many of those bridges were over creeks and not a river.
Buffington gave a cost estimate to the supervisors for a 135-foot bridge that the Buchanan County engineer was contracted to replace later this year. Supervisor Danny Chick asked Buffington if Keierleber had been down there to look at this $100 million project yet. Buffington replied no but mentioned Keierleber would do so if asked by the supervisors.
“Are any of these other structures dead end like this one is?” Mather asked Buffington. “As in there’s only one way to approach?”
Buffington said he didn’t know.
“I wonder how you would get the big equipment in to do that if it’s only one way,” Mather added.
When the county redid the bridge in the 80s, they were supposedly going to do a tube setup but a property owner was against that design because he couldn’t get his boat through the tubes to get to the lake, Buffington said. This is why the county went to the bridge design that is there now.
Chick said he was still struggling with the cost estimate they received.
Mather added this cost estimate was just for the materials and not the dredging.
Sauer asked Buffington if any of the bridge examples given to them were in floodplains. Buffington said he didn’t know but another resident said the example from Louisa County was in a floodplain near the Iowa River.
“Something to think about on ours, too, is the bridge doesn’t take the full brunt of the load,” Buffington added. “When that water is up it’s over the whole road before it ever touches the bridge.”
The backwaters are what floods, he added.
“There’s a substantial amount of that road from the bridge to the river that is at ground level or below ground level,” Sauer said.
Buffington acknowledged Sauer’s statement was correct adding it was pretty flat there.
“I drove and looked it last week,” Sauer said. “I looked at the whole thing.”
Mather asked the landowners at the meeting what the usage of the land on the east side of the bridge were. One of the landowners, who didn’t identify himself, said there used to be cattle there but with the weight restriction of five tons on the bridge he couldn’t use the land for his cattle now. Another landowner said there was a nature preserve down there but the nature preserve wasn’t able to get its equipment there to maintain the nature preserve.
Mather asked the landowners if they had spoken to each about what an appropriate cost for the bridge based of the tax evaluation would be. The supervisors in the end have to make the decision if the cost is worth it.
Muscatine County Engineer Bryan Horesowsky told the supervisors a bridge design would take a couple of years to get done and the earliest start of construction would be 2028 or 2029. The bridge is currently being inspected every year. The bridge is made from wood, which generally doesn’t last 40 years like this one.
Jill Goldsberry, a landowner on 245th Street, owns 10 acres on the east side of the bridge and seven acres on the west side of the bridge. In 1981, the old steel girder bridge was removed and the new bridge was installed. The supervisors at that time promised her and the other landowners the bridge would be taken care of. If she tried to sell her land now, it would be hard to do because of the access issue to the east side.
Buffington told the supervisors he hopes they decide to do something sooner than later because the bridge won’t continue to be usable in the near future.
The supervisors told him they would need to do what makes sense. They didn’t make any promises to the landowners or any decisions.
“I think just in today’s discussion there’s a couple of options I think we can look at,” Supervisor Jeff Sorensen said.
He suggested the county looks at the road to the north of 245th Street. They could possibly make it a Level B road and vacate the bridge.