Roadway repair underway in northwest Missouri; damage estimated in the tens of millions

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By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

Repair of northwest Missouri roads and bridges damaged by floodwaters is underway, where possible.

Missouri Department of Transportation Area Engineer Adam Watson says floodwaters haven’t receded enough in some spots to observe the damage. He says it appears the bridges over the Missouri River, US 159 at Rulo, Nebraska and US 136 at Brownville, Nebraska, have held up under the strain.

But Watson can’t say the same thing for the road leading to the Rulo bridge.

“The bridge is standing fine. It’s the approach pavement, the slabs of concrete in front of it; there’s nothing underneath those slabs of concrete,” Watson tells St. Joseph Post. “You can look through where there should be roadway and, you’re like, ooh yeah, that’s just a hole.”

Watson says bridges over Missouri River tributaries didn’t fare as well. Some are heavily damaged.

He says it is hard to estimate the damage at this point, but gives a preliminary repair price tag totaling in the tens of millions of dollars.

Watson says what damage MoDOT crews have observed so far isn’t any greater than during past floods, but admits even though the Missouri River has receded, floodwaters still hamper assessments.

“What was very frustrating is, and to some extent still is, the water level stays high for so long that we can’t get in and see it,” according to Watson. “So, I’ll be honest, the crews have been biting at the bit to see how much damage and how much debris they’re going to have to clean prior to even getting some routes open.”

Watson says assessment will continue as quickly as possible.

“So, we’re getting out now to look at them and we’ll continue it and as the water recedes, we’ll do more. The real question is how fast will the water recede?” Watson says, adding if the water rises again, it will obviously hamper recovery efforts.

Watson says the top priority of MoDOT now is to re-open roads to traffic, whether flood damage is fully repaired or not.

Watson says MoDOT crews need one thing from the public.

“Patience with us. We’ll get fixed as much as we can, get everything back open as soon as we can, but, some patience.”