ALMONT — Morton County proposes to replace a bridge in Almont that engineers say is “structurally deficient” and local residents say is too narrow for farm equipment.
The county is taking public comment on a proposal to replace the bridge that crosses Big Muddy Creek on County Road 86 in Almont.
At a public hearing this week in Almont, area farmers and ranchers said the current bridge, which is 20 feet wide, is so narrow that traffic has to wait for large farm equipment to cross.
“Everybody knows you just go to the middle of the bridge and drive,” said Clyde Wetzel, whose ranching operation is on both sides of the bridge.
The proposed bridge would be 32 feet wide, said John Sauber, project engineer.
While the width is the main concern for residents, Morton County Engineer John Saiki said he’s more concerned about the structural integrity of the bridge.
The current bridge, built in 1950, has a load rating of 8 tons. That’s the main reason Morton County ranks it No. 1 on its priority list of bridges that need to be replaced, Saiki said.
The proposed bridge would be designed to have a load rating of 36 tons, Sauber said.
A new bridge would also be slightly longer, at 176 feet compared with the current length of 130 feet.
The new bridge would require the county to acquire about 0.2 acres of permanent easements, as well as temporary easements during construction. Negotiations with landowners are expected to begin next month.
Construction is scheduled for 2019 and expected to take three to four months.
The project is estimated to cost $1.84 million. Eighty percent of the project would be funded through federal aid dollars administered by the North Dakota Department of Transportation and 20 percent would be funded by Morton County.
Lynne Jacobson, city auditor for Almont who also volunteers as a first-responder, said she’s glad there will be a temporary bypass to keep County Road 86 open while the bridge is under construction.
The temporary bridge will be 24 feet wide on the east side of the current bridge.
The project requires a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sauber said.
Jim Sailer, who owns land south of the bridge, said the new bridge is going to be a great asset for the community.
“We’ve been waiting for it for a long time,” Sailer said.