SHELDON—A road bridge closed near Sheldon may not reopen for many months.

O’Brien County engineer Scott Rinehart briefly updated the board of supervisors Tuesday, July 30, in Primghar about a Monroe Avenue crossing less than a half mile north of Sheldon that his office officially closed on June 27.

In a follow-up interview Thursday, Aug. 1, he explained why his office closed the north-to-south bridge, which is the first crossing motorists encounter as they drive north out of Sheldon after Washington Avenue turns into Monroe Avenue.

Rinehart’s office received a phone call that soil erosion under the bridge’s approaches was making the two-lane paved road’s crossing hazardous.

“Somebody called in and said there was a small hole in the asphalt,” he said. “It was on one of the approaches. We went out and looked at it.

“We discovered that the small hole was a symptom of the bigger problem of quite a cavity under both the north and the south abutments,” he said.

Rinehart explained that the timber piles located under the southern part of the crossing were part of the problem. Timber piles are supporting parts driven into the ground underneath the ends of a bridge.

“When we started basically diagnosing the problem and trying to figure out what we had to do about it, we discovered that all but one of the piles in the south abutment are cracked, so they can’t be fixed,” he said.

Rinehart confirmed the bridge is going to be replaced.

“We’ve got the first draft of the design done,” he said.

Rinehart said funds may be available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pay for the bridge replacement project.

“It’s a flood-related thing,” he said. “We had a team from FEMA out Tuesday to look at it. We’re going to build it whether FEMA reimburses us or not.”

Rinehart was not sure when a bid letting would be scheduled for the project.

“We just want to make sure everything we do in front of the letting is what FEMA requires,” he said. “We’re just trying to do it through their steps and hoping they’ll fund it.”

If no FEMA funds become available to help cover the cost of the approximately $428,000 project, Rinehart’s office will pay for the bridge replacement itself.

“We’re going to build it either way, but obviously if we can get FEMA money, we’d like to have it,” he said.

Wet weather dating back to the June 2018 flooding has impacted the crossing’s foundation. That includes flooding that occurred earlier this year in late winter and early spring.

Rinehart said about a quarter mile of Monroe Avenue has been closed to traffic because of the bridge’s condition.

“It’s just an inconvenience if you’re on the south side and you need to talk to somebody on the north side,” he said.

The crossing in question is a 32-foot-long concrete-slab bridge on timber piles that dates back to 1962.

Rinehart’s office plans to replace the bridge with an 80-foot-long concrete-slab crossing on steel H-piles.

“We’ve got to be bigger because it’s obvious with all the scouring going on underneath it that it’s undersized,” he said.

Rinehart does not see the bridge replacement project being completed until next spring, so the road will be closed for an indeterminate amount of time.

“We’re hoping that somebody that might have a little bit of an opening might come in and work on it and get it done yet this fall, but odds are it won’t be open till spring,” he said. “You’d have to very optimistic to hope that road would be open by late fall.”


COMPREHENSIVE PLAN SURVEY:

The O’Brien County Comprehensive Plan Committee’s next meeting will be held at noon Thursday, Aug. 8, at the county courthouse in Primghar.

Committee members are requesting that county residents and property owners fill out a short community survey to assist them in making future decisions for the county’s comprehensive land-use plan.

The county’s previous comprehensive plan was completed almost 50 years ago.

The survey may be accessed online at www.obriencounty.org. Paper copies of the survey also will be sent out through the mail.

Committee members also request that the survey be completed no later than Saturday, Aug. 31.