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Proposal gives life to Milltown bridge project

A new proposal presented at Thursday morning’s Crawford County Board of Commissioners meeting may have given the long-anticipated Milltown bridge project new life.
Darin Duncan of CPI Supply, at the request of District 1 Commissioner Larry Bye, who represents the Crawford County side of Milltown, offered a detailed analysis of replacing the current one-lane bridge connecting Crawford and Harrison counties at Blue River.
Having already seen a proposal from another company for building a new bridge several yards upstream at the site of an old railroad bridge and worried about the cost, Bye had asked CPI to look at options for building the new bridge in essentially the same location of the current structure.
Duncan, a former engineer for Harrison County, said CPI went into the project looking at three alternates, but quickly dismissed one ‘ building the bridge in the exact same location ‘ because of issues presented by having to relocate utilities. The company, therefore, concentrated on presenting options both just upstream and downstream, he said.
Both options are identical regarding the bridge itself, with only the approach work differing, Duncan said. The 29-foot-wide bridge would be similar to the recently installed bridge south of town on Rothrock’s Mill Road. The approximately 180-foot-long structure would be pre-fabricated and would feature two 12-foot lanes for traffic, as well as a four-foot sidewalk and a two-foot utility chase. The bridge would feature a highway weight limit, making it accessible for school buses and firetrucks.
Duncan estimated either option would cost approximately $1.7 million. If the project were OK’d by both Crawford and Harrison counties relatively soon, CPI could have the permits secured in time for a fall bid letting, with construction, expected to take about eight months, to begin in 2009, he said.
Harrison and Crawford counties previously agreed to follow recent tradition on joint bridge projects, with Harrison picking up 60 percent of the cost and Crawford paying the remaining 40 percent. That would mean Harrison’s price tag would be about $1 million, while Crawford’s would be about $672,000.
The main difference between the upstream and downstream alternates are with their approaches, particularly on the Harrison side.
Both options would have a 4-percent grade on the Crawford County side, similar to the present bridge, but the north option would tie into the existing road slightly north of the current bridge but just south of the boat ramp for Cave Country Canoes. The south option would take up some of the grassy area south of the current bridge tying into Main Street, but wouldn’t affect nearby Castaways Restaurant.
‘I want to dispel the myth that we were going to come into town and be five feet or seven feet high and not be able to tie into the existing street,’ Duncan said.
On the Harrison County side, the south option would offer a straighter curve and, at 5 percent, a lower grade than the north option, which, because of having a shorter approach, would have a sharper curve and 7-percent grade. However, both alternates would dramatically decrease the current 14-percent grade. In addition, either option would move the ‘area of disturbance’ ‘ the road plus the adjacent ground altered by the project ‘ closer to one home each, with the downstream option cutting off access to Main Street for a residence.
Many town officials and residents had favored building a new bridge at the old railroad bridge site since it is out of the flood plain and access to the bridge wouldn’t be cut off during a flood. While the alternates presented by Duncan keep the bridge in the flood plain, they call for the old bridge, along with its center pier, to be removed. Since the new bridge wouldn’t have a center pier, the river should be able to flow better when high, or at the very least, not hinder it, he said.
‘Will this structure alleviate flooding in the town of Milltown? No,’ Duncan said. ‘Will it make it any worse? No.’
Either option will require utilities to be relocated, while the downstream option would also require electrical lines to be moved, Duncan said.
‘Who’s responsible for paying the costs of replacing those utility lines?’ asked Harrison County Commissioner James Goldman, who represents his county’s side of Milltown and was in the audience, which also included Milltown Town Council President Curt Hudson and Council member-elect Jeanie Melton.
Duncan said he is not sure, but noted his proposal included about $240,000 for utility relocation.
Although originally preferred by many Milltown residents, the old railroad site option appears dead. The project’s estimated cost had jumped to $5.1 million ‘ it featured more extensive approach work ‘ and even with federal grant dollars, each county would have had to pay more than $1 million. The options presented by Duncan would be completely locally funded, but the cost, particularly for Crawford, would be less and the project likely could be completed sooner.
‘In all honestly, if Crawford County and Harrison County had all sorts of money, the best route would be at the railroad bridge,’ but it is simply too expensive, Bye said.
‘Is there an option you prefer based on ease of design and (the ability to) put in place?’ Goldman asked Duncan.
Duncan said his company can do either but noted the upstream option would be a bit less expensive since it wouldn’t require relocation of the electric lines.
Asked if traffic would need to be closed, Duncan said it possibly would during the approach work, but the bid specifications could be written so that it is left open. However, he cautioned, the contractor would likely propose a higher cost to do so.
In other matters Thursday, the commissioners:
‘Voted 3-0 to recall county employees laid off last year because of budget concerns, effective Thursday, Jan. 3.
However, a five-member committee appointed by the commissioners and the Crawford County Council to evaluate the personnel needs of each courthouse office is to meet Thursday and present its findings to the commissioners on Jan. 31. The committee includes Bye, K. Lynn Lopp, Joey Robinson, Daniel Crecelius and Bill Byrd.
‘Voted 3-0 to renew the county’s group health insurance with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, effective Jan. 1, at a 7.4-percent increase.