Bridge repair to move forward

Jefferson County may not pay, but Douglas County will continue plan

Douglas County next week probably will move forward on its own to close the Lecompton bridge when repairs are made next year, even if Jefferson County decides not to pay its share of the cost, Commission Chairman Bob Johnson said Tuesday.

And indeed, Jefferson County Commissioner Lynn Luck said the county probably would withhold its share – about $330,000.

The two counties have been at odds on whether to close the bridge on Douglas County Road 1029 during repairs. Jefferson County wants to keep one lane open on the bridge that spans the Kansas River and links the communities of Lecompton and Perry. Leaders say closing the bridge would harm local businesses and the Perry-Lecompton school district.

“Our stance hasn’t changed,” Luck said.

Jefferson County wants the Kansas Department of Transportation to review the bridge issue and make the decision about closure, Luck said. But Johnson said that would take too long.

Keith Browning, Douglas County engineer, said KDOT told him a few weeks ago that it would take up to 60 days for the state agency to make a decision about the bridge. That, Browning told commissioners, could delay planning and bidding for the project and make it difficult to finish repairs during the 2007 construction season.

“If you go into 2008, that will probably be more expensive,” Johnson said Tuesday. “There is a high probability that we would have to pay for temporary repairs, which would literally be like dumping money into the river.”

Douglas County Commission’s next meeting is Monday, and that’s when commissioners likely will direct that plans be made to close the bridge during repairs, Johnson said.

He said he had talked with Jefferson County Commissioner David Christy by phone Monday about Douglas County’s stance.

“We had a nice conversation. It was very cordial and friendly,” Johnson said.

Christy couldn’t be reached for comment, but Douglas County’s position comes as no surprise, Luck said.

“I guess that’s what we expected,” she said. “Unfortunately, in June we could have figured this out.”

Months ago, Douglas and Jefferson counties reached an informal agreement to work together to repair the bridge’s decking. Douglas County would be lead county on the project in working with consultants and the contractor. It also was decided that based on total property valuation, Douglas County would pay 89 percent of the bridge project with Jefferson County paying the remaining 11 percent.

The cost of the project is estimated at $3.3 million if the bridge is closed for about 140 days. The cost would be about $3.5 million with contractor incentives to finish the job earlier.

If one lane of the bridge were to be kept open during repairs, the cost would be more than $4 million and the project would take 320 days. The bridge still would have to be closed for as many as 60 days during that time.

If Jefferson County decides not to participate in the project, there probably will not be enough funds in Douglas County’s budget to pay for contractor incentives, Johnson said.

If it’s decided to close the bridge, Johnson said an effort would be made to get the project completed near the start of the 2007 school year and cause as little disruption as possible for the Perry-Lecompton school district.

“I’m surprised and, to be honest, disappointed if Jefferson County would choose not to share in the funding, but I suppose that is their decision,” Johnson said.