MoDOT's Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Plan targets over 800 bridges in poor condition to be improved or replaced between 2007 and 2012 under an unprecedented plan to do so under a single contract.
Among the 802 bridges listed Wednesday for the project are 80 located in District 10 including 13 in Scott County, six in New Madrid County, and six in Mississippi County, according to Mark Shelton, district engineer.
"I like to think of it as our rural bridge program because it is addressing bridges primarily on our lettered routes -- that's where the focus of this program is," Shelton said. "It's a great opportunity for Southeast Missouri."
The only listed bridge in these three counties considered to be on a major route is the one carrying the westbound lanes of U.S. Highway 60 over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in New Madrid County just south of Sikeston.
Each bridge has a number between 1 and 10 indicating its condition.
"A brand new bridge, as soon as we open it, is a 10," Shelton said. "A bridge that is a 2 is closed."
Bridges listed for District 10 are all between 3 and 5. Bridges in the three local counties are almost all 4s with a couple of 3s and one 5.
While a 3 does indicate the last grade before a bridge is closed, area residents don't need to be alarmed as conditions don't change overnight, according to Shelton.
"We wouldn't have any bridge open that isn't safe," he said. "These are bridges that are in need of structural repair. They are not about to fall down, but are in need of repair."
As bridge decks are considered structural members, "part of the condition rating has to do with the condition of the surface," Shelton said.
MoDOT has evaluated, rated and short-listed four teams that responded to the department's request for statements of qualification.
Advanced Bridge Infrastructure Group, Missouri Bridge Partners, Team United and Partnership Missouri are now are eligible to compete with proposals for the contract to design, build, finance and maintain all of the bridges listed for the project.
Teams consist of construction companies, financiers and consulting engineers for the design work. The teams may still add firms at this point.
"We are anticipating in May of 2007 that we will select the team to deliver the Safe and Sound Bridge program," Shelton said.
In addition to awarding a single contract for the entire initiative, MoDOT is also deviating from its usual procedure in which the department designs the repairs or replacement bridge and then requests bids from contractors to build MoDOT's design.
"This is a design-build process," Shelton said. "They will not only propose a bid, they will propose how they are going to fix the bridges. They will be allowed to design their solutions and build them. This allows for contractor ingenuity and contractor solutions to our problems."
Shelton said MoDOT is looking forward to seeing what kind of innovative solutions the team comes up with as "we'll be able to use those ideas on our other bridges."
The contract will include a provision to ensure the bridges stay in good condition for a good while.
"The contractor has to get the bridges in good condition by 2012 and then keep them in good condition for a minimum of 25 years after that," Shelton said. "That provides security that our contractor hasn't come up with some cheap-o solution that barely gets by."
The Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Plan is expected to cost between $400 million and $600 million.
As the team that is awarded the contract is responsible for financing the work, the state will use part of its annual federal bridge funds to repay the contractors over time. MoDOT has chosen this new approach because the gasoline taxes that fund road building and maintenance are not keeping pace with rising construction costs.
Shelton said he believes this program will address the state's bridge problems "better, faster and cheaper."
"I'm thrilled about this," he said. "This is going to revolutionize the way we do bridges."