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County board discusses Mitchell bridge
May 09, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Mitzi Cawthra/Gering Citizen - The bridge across the North Platte River at Mitchell is approaching its 100th year of service.

By As the bridge over the North Platte River south of Mitchell approaches its 100th year of service, the county board and the Nebraska Department of Roads are discussing how the structure can be improved.

Craig Lind, District 5 engineer for NDOR, told commissioners the bridge is in generally good condition, but is in need of some improvements.

The bridge was in the news in the summer of 2011when high water levels in the river threatened the structural integrity of its 12 arches. However, the structure withstood the high water and is still in service today.

Lind said that although the deck of the bridge is sound, the overlay needs to be sealed, along with the joints. Also, the guard rails need to be improved, as today’s highway is much wider than in 1920 when the bridge was built.

The bridge was on the state highway system until 1986, when the county and the state entered into an agreement to relinquish some of the county’s highways. The agreement was later supplemented, giving the state responsibility to maintain the bridge itself. The county would be responsible for surface maintenance. Also under the revised agreement, once the bridge was rehabilitated, its entire maintenance and inspections would become the responsibility of the county.

Lind told commissioners he’d like to do some work on the bridge. Options included to do nothing, improve the guardrail and relocating two driveways, reseal the expansion joints, do a bridge deck overlay, or even build a new bridge. That would cost in the neighborhood of $3.5 million for the 670 foot structure. However, the state would only pay a portion of that cost.
“The bridge hasn’t reached critical stage where it has to be replaced yet,” Lind said. “But the rating is 57, which it’s been for the past 15 years. It’s inspected every two years and we’ll do an underwater inspection this fall.”

If the bridge is rehabilitated, it would cost in the $700,000 – $900,000 range, with NDOR picking up the cost. Under the 1986 agreement, the bridge would then be turned over to the county.

Even if the county board decides to improve the bridge, it would be several years before construction could begin.

Board chairman Mark Masterton thanked Lind for being both fair and pragmatic in his suggestions, and the board agreed to continue discussions on what to do with the bridge.
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