Ashland Residents Fight to Save Bridge

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ASHLAND - A group of Ashland residents met at the Boone Public Library Wednesday afternoon to look for funding help to repair or replace the Burnett School Road Bridge.

Boone County wants to shut down the bridge after an inspection last year showed significant repairs were needed.

(To view the inspection, click here: BridgeInspection.pdf)

The bridge spans Cedar Creek, connecting Boone County to Callaway County, and is important to the nearly 70 people who live on the Callaway side and commute to Boone County.

Arthur Gloss, one of the residents who lives on the Callaway side of the bridge, said losing the bridge would be a safety risk.

"If there was a forest fire on the south side of this bridge, we would trapped and we would have no way to escape," he said. "This is one of our outlets out going north. It's very vital to us."

Gloss also said it would take emergency vehicles from Columbia an additional 45 minutes to reach residents if they couldn't use the bridge.

The bridge is also used by variety of groups, including horse-riding clubs, the forest service and the MU Conservation Department.

While all sides seem to agree something must be done about the current state of the bridge, securing funding is proving difficult.

The bridge is technically the responsibility of both Boone and Callaway County. Normally the majority responsibility for bridges along Cedar Creek alternates between the two counties.

But a tagging error left Boone County responsible for two bridges in a row, one of which is the Burnett School Road Bridge.

Because of that nuance, Boone County Presiding Commioner Dan Atwill, who attended the meeting Wednesday, says Boone County shouldn't be required to pay for the majority of the repairs.

"I don't think that's correct," he said. "The way the tagging is done needs to be checked out and it's not a question that can be answered right off the cuff."

Atwill requested the group of citizens meet with representatives from both counties at a later date to discuss funding options and responsibility.

Also complicating the issue is a traffic study done last year. The study found only four to five cars used the bridge on a daily basis, which made both counties hesitant to commit money to a little-used road.

But Kim Tarka, who gave a presentation on the bridge at Wednesday's meeting, says the study wasn't accurate. She said heavy flooding during the period the study was conducted limited bridge traffic.

"We don't think that the use has declined 95% since 1992," Tarka said. "We definitely need to do a recount on the traffic use of that bridge."

Tarka and the Ashland group have requested that MoDOT conduct a new study to determine an accurate traffic assessment. But Atwill says even if the new study shows evidence of more traffic, it doesn't guarantee either county will be more willing to commit money to repairs.

"We'd have to go to the charts and see what's required," he said. "This isn't something that's just someone thinks. There's lots of ways to evaluate this. We're a long way from having it assessed right."

Previous traffic studies on the bridge found anywhere from 50-100 cars used the bridge every day.

In the meantime, the Ashland group will seek alternative sources of funding to offset the cost to Boone and Callaway County.

It is looking at federal funding options, as well as money from the park service, which has some involvement because the bridge is within the Mark Twain National Forest.