Old Bridge

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BOONE COUNTY - The center line splits Rustic Road in half, giving ownership to the city of Columbia and the other half to Boone County. The east lane of traffic is in the county while the west lane drives inside city limits. This road, one of approximately 20 that have shared ownership between the city and county, has a one-lane, 80 year old bridge that has caused some grief for residents of the area. 

This bridge has a history. Build in 1930, the only modifications the bridge has seen came 20 years later in the 1950s. In 2009, MoDOT inspected the bridge and reduced its weight limit from 40 to 15 tons. There are 11 homes on the dead end side of the bridge and a Bridge Engineering Assistance Program (BEAP) report done by MoDOT in 2011 said the "Rural Local" bridge carries approximately 200 vehicles a day. Even though parts of the bridge have crumbed and there are holes rusted through some of the support beams underneath, David Nichols of Columbia Public Works said right now, the bridge supports its everyday traffic. But the BEAP report also said the bridge is "Structurally Deficient" and could qualify for federal funding to be replaced.

Since MoDOT reduced the bridge weight limit in 2009, Melanie and Stuart Spradling, 26-year residents of Rustic Road, have written government officials in a plea to have the city or the county replace the structure, in fear the old, rusted bridge will collapse.

"I'm worried one of these times a school bus is going to hit it and won't make it across the bridge," Stuart said. 

The Spradling's fears became reality when in April, Boone County fire trucks did not cross the bridge in an emergency when Melanie needed medical attention. 

"I just thought that was crazy that the firetruck did not come over the bridge," Melanie said. "And I'm just glad it didn't end up being a heart event."

Nichols said in an event of a fire, the Columbia Fire Department would try to cross the bridge. However, because there is no water supply along the road they would have to truck in water and by doing so the truck would most likely exceed the bridge's capacity. Because it's a shared bridge, he said it is sometimes difficult to figure out who is responsible for funding maintenance and replacement.

"That's what happens a lot of time with annexations," Nichols said. "A lot of infrastructure out there is just split responsibilities. So we have a good relationship with the county, we just need to sit down and hammer out a lot of details about certain roads. This is not the only one. There's several on the perimeter that are affected by annexations, city limits and county limits." 

Derrin Campbell of Boone County Public Works said the county applied for a federal grant to replace the bridge two years ago. The county did not receive the grant and is reapplying this year. In a phone conversation, he labeled the Rustic Road bridge as an identified, but unfunded need. He said it is not something that's been on anyone's radar and it takes some time to get attention.

"Funding is always a challenge," Campbell said.

Nichols said even if there were enough money to fund the replacement of the bridge, it is unclear whether the project would be completed. For the Spradlings, that is not good enough. 

"I think they need to come in and just do it right," Melanie said. "We pay taxes, we're like everyone else. We're concerned citizens, we're going our part. We need them to do their part."