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Delayed bridge project could lose federal funding, official says

By: Jim Merkel

Photos provided by the St. Louis County Department of Transportation and Public Works show the deterioration of the Lewis Bridge in Eureka.

The continued delay in starting work on a new Lewis Road Bridge northeast of Eureka could lead to the county could losing $750,000 in federal funding for the project.

Dan Dreisewerd, acting director of the St. Louis County Department of Transportation and Public Works, raised that possibility during discussion at the County Council’s Oct. 17 meeting.

During that meeting, the council voted down a bill to start work on a new bridge to replace the severely dilapidated bridge on Lewis Road over the Missouri Pacific Railroad line.

Without that legislation, the county can’t start negotiations to acquire right-of-way. That work usually takes about a year to finish. The deadline for finishing that work and getting the federal funding is June 30, 2018, Dreisewerd said.

David Wrone, spokesman for the county Department of Transportation and Public Works, said his department is in a holding pattern as far as the project is concerned.

“This latest delay makes it even more likely that we’ll forfeit the federal funding. And please note: if we lose this funding, it’s gone forever. We can’t apply the money to another project,” Wrone wrote in an email.

The vote was 3-3 with one absence. Voting in favor of the legislation was West County councilmembers Mark Harder [R-District 7], Colleen Wasinger [R-District 3] and Pat Dolan [D-District 5]. Opposing it were Council Chair Sam Page [D-District 2] and councilmembers Hazel Erby [D-District 1] and Rochelle Walton Gray [D-District 4]. County Councilmember Ernie Trakas [D-District 6] was absent.

Page and Harder introduced the bill, but it was primarily Harder’s measure because it was in his district. Harder had delayed seeking the bill for several months because of the probability he’d be defeated.

But Harder decided to go ahead after Dreisewerd requested legislation to put a 10 mph speed limit on trucks weighing more than six tons going over Allen and Lewis road bridges. That shows how serious things are, Harder said. “Most delivery trucks are heavier than that,” he said.

A bill will be written to approve that change. The Allen Road Bridge also is in severely poor shape, but the council has approved a start to that work.

“I’m getting tired of these people that don’t see public safety as any urgency,” Harder said after the vote.

Some councilmembers want the one resident who lives on the other side of the bridge, businessman Michael Roberts, to put up some of the $2.5 million cost. Revelations in May that Roberts’ residence and a golf course he owns are the only beneficiaries of the project caused it to stall.

Page has said that he hopes to get the bridge fixed eventually. But he thinks that because of the limited number of people who use the bridge that Roberts should also contribute. Harder disagreed.

“He should not have to chip in on a public road that goes by his house,” Harder said.

Meanwhile, Wrone said his bridge inspections continue to monitor the bridge once a week.

“The bridge hasn’t deteriorated, but it certainly hasn’t improved, and obviously won’t,” Wrone wrote in an email. “We remain hopeful that a sufficient number of county councilmembers will stand with their colleague in whose district the bridge is located and move this project forward.”

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