Murdoch Bridge Project Raises Traffic Concerns
Residents received a revised timetable and details surrounding Murdoch Bridge reconstruction earlier this week.
The City of Webster Groves provided residents with road closure and detour information relating to the long anticipated reconstruction of Murdoch Bridge over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad tracks, at an open house earlier this week.
The $2.3-million project, now slated to begin in January, will close Murdoch Avenue southbound from until August of next year from Big Bend Road to the I-44 on-ramp, Public Works Director Paul Verheyen told attendees of the open house Tuesday night at the Webster Groves Recreation Complex.
The city expects recommended detours to increase traffic along Laclede Station Road, Edgar Road and Elm Avenue, among other streets, according to Verheyen. Residents received maps that detail the detours, which can be accessed on the city’s website.
Along with some residence in attendance, Superintendent of the Webster Groves Schools District Sarah Riss expressed concerns about possible traffic issues during construction.
"I'm thinking of heavy traffic in front of Hixon (Middle School), and a lot of kids walking to school in that area ... and if there's any consideration of lowering the speed limit."
Webster Groves’ city manager, Steven J. Wylie, possibly could lower the speed limit near the school on an emergency, temporary basis, Verheyen said, adding that he could talk to Chief of Police Dale Curtis about the issue.
Longtime resident Trisha Wilhelm believes traffic will be a major issue during bridge reconstruction.
"They need to do something about that intersection anyway, she said. “It's dangerous ... and there's not much access to I-44 around there as it is."
Verheyen stressed that the ramp onto westbound I-44 will remain open for northbound traffic on Murdoch Avenue for a large majority of the planned construction time and that the ramp will not be closed for more than a week’s time.
Robert E. Polk, principal consultant from the Farnsworth Group, also noted that the ramp would only be closed at night from about 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. to avoid peak traffic times.
The project will take many months to complete due to multiple factors, according to Verheyen, and, at this point, it’s still unknown who the contractor will be.
Before bids can be accepted, reconstruction plans must be approved by the project’s engineering consultant, the Farnsworth Group, MODOT, the city, the Federal Highway Administration and then by the city for a second time. Authority to construct could come as early as November 2011.
Eighty pertcent of the project’s $2.3 million cost will be funded by a federal grant. The remaining 20 percent will come from Webster Groves’ capital improvement program, the details of which can be found on the city's website within the 2011 Fiscal Budget.
According to projected costs, more than $467,000 in taxes will be raised to cover the city's 20 percent obligation, including a street improvement tax and a capital improvement sales tax.
The poor condition of the current bridge is clear to the naked eye, and a January 2008 MODOT inspection confirmed the need for replacement with a sufficiency rating of 26.4 percent.
"A normal rating for a bridge is in the 80's," Verheyen explained. "If it gets down below 20, you have to close the bridge."