The new $8.5-million bridge being built over the Osage River near Tuscumbia, Mo. was the country�s first stimulus-financed project to get under way after President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) on Feb. 17.

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The new 970-ft-long bridge will take the place of a rickety steel-truss bridge that has stood since 1933 and badly needs replacing.

As the stimulus bill was developing, the Missouri Dept. of Transportation (MoDOT) laid the groundwork for several projects, including the bridge near Tuscumbia, Mo., which links two sides of the town of about 220 people in the center of the state. The bridge also carries traffic traveling through the area on State Hwy. 17.

To be ready for a quick start, MoDOT had engineers from Harrington & Cortelyou Inc., Kansas City, Mo., complete the bridge’s design. MoDOT also took care of all the environmental approvals, got bids from contractors, and identified the low bidder.

On Feb. 17, state officials gathered at the bridge and watched a live television feed of President Obama signing the ARRA bill into law. They then awarded APAC-Kansas the construction contract and APAC’s excavating subcontractor sank a backhoe bucket into the ground to begin digging.

MoDOT project manager Jason Vanderfeltz estimates that if the existing 76-year-old bridge were to become unusable, drivers would need to make a 35-mile detour to use the next closest crossing.

The existing bridge has been rated by the state as structurally deficient. Because of its condition, the bridge’s capacity has been limited to 15 tons, according to Vanderfeltz.

Missouri would eventually have replaced the existing bridge, but not for at least a year or more. MoDOT Director Pete Rahn has said that if stimulus money were not available, this project would not be on the current construction plans.

The new bridge, now going up next to the existing bridge, will meet Missouri’s standard load-bearing capacity and will be 28 ft wide–8 ft wider than the existing bridge. That will allow two 11-ft driving lanes and two 3-ft shoulders.

The bridge’s seven spans range from 88 ft to 221 ft in length. The two spans on each end are made of precast concrete girders, while the three long center spans feature girders of welded steel plate. The spans are supported by two abutments and six drilled-shaft piers sitting on bedrock. The bridge deck will be cast-in-place concrete.

Completion is scheduled for Oct. 1, 2010.

MoDOT estimates that construction of the new bridge will support 250 direct and indirect jobs. That number includes jobs in stores, restaurants, motels, and other services and suppliers that will benefit from the project.

Rick Zimmerman, area manager, bridge group, for the project’s general contractor, APAC-Kansas, estimates that an average of 25 to 30 construction workers from his company and subcontractors will be on site daily, though the number will vary depending on the work being done. Nearly all of those workers will be from the area, he says.

Zimmerman notes that APAC-Kansas is currently bidding on three to four more ARRA jobs, averaging $10 million to $15 million each. “We’re now seeing the second wave of ARRA projects that weren’t quite as ready as this job,” he says.