"Show Me!" Safe & Sound Bridges

By David Huey | September 28, 2010

The Show Me State can boast that they are the seventh largest bridge owner in the country. There are 10,240 bridges on the Missouri state highway system. Unfortunately, along with bragging rights comes the responsibility to maintain, repair and replace them as needed. It's a daunting task at any time, but with 1,093 of Missouri Department of Transportation's (MoDOT) bridges in poor/serious condition, it's a truly disheartening prospect.

The Safe & Sound Bridge Program will address most of those bridges. In fact, the Safe & Sound program pledges to replace or rehabilitate 802 bridges, with at least one in every county, within the next four years. MoDOT would then pay for the program using a portion of its federal bridge replacement funds over 25 years.

It's the strongest action ever taken by MoDOT to deal with the conditions and problems with its huge inventory of bridges. The program was designed to address more than 800 of MoDOT's most worn-out bridges. It was decided that a single team of contractors would perform the work, with a large number of local subcontractors used on project sites spread all over the state. The team will be charged to bring all the bridges up to good condition by the end of 2012 and then maintain them in good condition for at least 25 years.

The use of one team to design and build the entire project is particularly effective on large, complicated projects that offer significant opportunities for innovation in order to save money and speed completion.

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission selected Missouri Bridge Partners as the apparent "best-value" solution to the bridge project and began negotiations. The major participants on the Missouri Bridge Partners team include: Zachry American Infrastructure; Parsons Transportation Group; Fred Weber, Incorporated; Clarkson Construction; HNTB; and Infrastructure Corporation of America.

The Partners, if contracted, would deliver the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program under a Design-Build-Finance-Maintain model. That means Missouri Bridge Partners would be responsible for all facets of the program. If a contract can be executed, work could begin around the state as early as this spring.

As major infrastructure projects go, four years to repair or replace more than 800 bridges without an undue financial burden on Missouri taxpayers is a fairly short time span. The cost is estimated at $400 million to $600 million, with MoDOT making no payments until after the initial construction period is complete. MoDOT will dedicate existing federal bridge replacement funds to finance the program.

MoDOT Director Pete Rahn noted, "Safe & Sound has always been about fixing bad bridges quickly and economically."

No bridge work had begun by late February. Even though negotiations continue with Missouri Bridge Partners and a contract has not yet been executed, work on Save & Sound bridges started last year.

Early in the project, even before Missouri Bridge Partners was selected as the potential project team, St. Louis-based Geotechnology Inc. applied a complex Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) program for site utility mapping. Geotechnology, with satellite offices in Collinsville and Kansas City, offers a comprehensive range of engineering and environmental services. As part of one of the first design-build Safe & Sound projects, the SUE project developed comprehensive utility maps for 226 bridges located throughout 20 counties in Missouri — all developed in only 70 days from Notice to Proceed.

The complete list of Safe & Sound projects can be found on www.modot.mo.gov/safeandsound. For more information on Geotechnology, visit www.geotechnology.com.