Future of 90-year-old bridge in limbo
Engineer asked to check safety of crossing over Stranger Creek
Casualties of last week's flood included residents of and owners of homes and businesses, along with bridges.
In south-central Leavenworth County on Stranger Creek, four miles north of Linwood, high waters may have damaged one of the oldest bridges in the county. The bridge is on Metro Avenue, between 190th and 198th streets.
Saturday, both ends of the wooden-floored bridge were barricaded and marked with "Road Closed" signs.
"It's the last steel-truss bridge in the county," said Bill Green, director of public works for Leavenworth County.
"It's an old bridge," Green said. "It has some lateral stresses. We just need to have somebody take a look at it before I can assure the public that it's safe for four tons."
Green said he had made an emergency request for an engineer to examine the bridge, and he said he's hopeful this can be done in the next couple of weeks.
Saturday, a week after the flood, Stranger Creek's water gurgled some 20 feet below the bridge, but evidence of the flood remained.
Area residents know it's this crossing over Stranger Creek that keeps the neighborhood from being landlocked. The turnpike is about a quarter-mile south. And the nearest east-west road between 182nd Street and 198th Street is Evans Road, two miles to the north.
"I don't use it every day, but I use it a lot through the summer," said Jim Owens, who farms in the area. "As far as keeping the planks replaced and the side railings, I think the old bridge is in sound shape -- at least it should be used for local cars and trucks for people that use it all the time."
George Sprague, who has lived near the old bridge since 1947, said it was built in about 1916. At each end, the bridge is supported by stone piers.
According to Sprague, the bridge replaced a 1903 bridge that was washed out by floods.
Sprague, who served as county commissioner in the early 1990s, said that during his time on the commission there was talk of replacing the bridge.
But, Sprague said, other bridges came first.
"So this bridge kind of went begging," Sprague said.
He noted the posted weight limit was 4 tons.
"You can't cross that old bridge with anything but a car or a pickup truck," Sprague said. "It's too narrow and the weight limit is down."
The old steel bridge isn't the only one county officials are cautious about.
The bridge over Stranger Creek on County Road 5, as well as the overflow bridge to the north, may have sustained damage as well, Green said, noting the speed limit temporarily has been lowered to 20 mph and the bridge's weight limit has been lowered to 5 tons.
The county's emergency management director, Chuck Magaha, said the flood damages throughout the county were sizable.
"We're looking at about $5.4 million to individual people and businesses," Magaha said Friday.
He said about half the damage occurred in Easton, 15 miles north of Tonganoxie. The rest of the damage took place in Leavenworth, as well as in other areas throughout the county, Magaha said.
"It's pretty well spread all over," Magaha said.
The damage varied.
"It was anywhere from 7 feet of water going through people's houses to just a little bit of water in the basements," Magaha said.
He noted damages are shelved in these categories: affected, minor, major and destroyed.
"We have one destroyed," Magaha said. "We have about 30 that are in the major category, which is 3 foot or more in the house, and the rest are minor, which means there was water below the knees."
Magaha said the house that was destroyed was in Easton.
And, Magaha said damage to public roads and bridges was estimated at $2.4 million.
On Tuesday, Magaha said he wasn't sure whether the county would qualify for federal disaster relief.
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