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New Compact Bridge Set for Clay County, Kansas

Fri January 20, 2012 - Midwest Edition
Jennifer Rupp

U.S. 24 runs the entire width of Kansas, extending into Colorado to the west and Missouri to the east. Major repairs to this route have been incorporated into the Kansas Department of Transportation’s (KSDOT) highway projects over the next couple of years. For the 2012-2013 fiscal period, KSDOT has allotted $82 million for improvements across the state. The projects range from heavy preservation and expansion, to light preservation and modernization.

One such project resides in Clay Center of Clay County. This $6.3 million preservation job calls for the removal of the old U.S. 24 bridge over Huntress Creek, and the construction of a new bridge. The existing bridge was deemed functionally obsolete in 2009, with a sufficiency rating of 60.3 out of 100. (

Prime contractor A.M. Cohron & Son Inc., of Atlantic, Iowa, and their subcontractors began work in August 2011, with repairs to the future detour route through Clay Center on Court Street. On the one-mile detour, workers installed new signal lights, made repairs to a bridge and applied an asphalt overlay. The detour went into effect on Jan. 11, 2012 and demolition of the existing bridge followed shortly thereafter.

All bridge work on the detour and U.S. 24 is being handled by Cohron. The Court Street bridge rehabilitation required 270 cu. yds. (525 tons) of concrete, and the new U.S. 24 structure will use 1,000 cu. yds. (1,960 tons) of concrete.

The town of Clay Center is divided north/south by Huntress Creek and has two bridges (U.S. 24 and Court Street) crossing the creek. The existing U.S. 24 bridge was built over a railroad track and Huntress Creek in 1936, moving the highway alignment from Court Street. The railroad was abandoned and the tracks were removed in the early 1990s. Several options were reviewed for potential detours during the replacing of the U.S. 24 structure including a shoofly detour, use of Court Street and an asphalt road detour without posted bridges which was over 60 mi. (96.6 km) in length. After several public meetings and discussions with the City of Clay Center, the Court Street detour was determined to be the desired route.

This directed traffic past an elementary school and a retirement area of town with residence in the retirement towers living on one side of the detour and their garages on the other.

To add safety to the elderly and to the school children, several sets of signal lights were included in the detour portion of the project and will not be removed upon project completion.

With the commercial businesses being split east and west of Huntress Creek, there is significant localized traffic traveling between the downtown Courthouse and business area and the recreational, commercial and manufacturing areas on the west side of town.

“While the detour adds little distance to travel, the increased traffic on a narrower roadway with lower speed limits will remind many of travel from days-gone-by when it was best not to be in a hurry when traveling through town,” said Dale Hershberger, KSDOT area engineer.

With the single crossing of Huntress Creek, there are also concerns for what to do in case there is an accident blocking this route, especially immediately after sporting events like football or baseball. Alternative options for fire and ambulance have been reviewed.

These concerns have also played into some of the options available to the contractor as the project sequencing has been reviewed and the contractor arrived at the best schedule for his work forces, as well as meeting the needs of the community.

The annual average daily traffic (AADT) on U.S. 24 near this bridge is over 6,000 vehicles per day (vpd), while just two miles outside of Clay Center on U.S. 24, the AADT is under 2000 vpd. Thus most of the traffic crossing this structure is local traffic traveling to work, to restaurants or to businesses.

International manufacturer of grain augers, Hutchinson-Mayrath, is located in Clay Center and employs more than 250 people.

The new bridge is 380 ft. (115.8 m) long and replaces the existing 566 ft. (172.5 m) long bridge. The structure will also be about 10 ft. (3 m) lower because it no longer has to provide clearance to trains.

Shilling Construction Co. Inc. of Manhattan, Kan., was subcontracted for 6,133 tons (5,562.6 t) of asphalt work. Amino Brothers Co. Inc., based in Kansas City, is excavating 14,000 cu. yds. (10,710 cu m) of dirt.

Whitewing Construction, Inc. of Newton is in charge of concrete pavement and sidewalks. Crews will use 225 tons (204 t) of 10 in. (25.4 cm) concrete pavement material. IES Industrial Inc. dba Kayton Electric of Salina is providing lighting and traffic signals. Roadsafe Traffic Systems Inc., based in El Dorado, was contracted for pavement marking and traffic control.

KSDOT plans to open the new bridge for traffic in November 2012, at which time the Court Street detour will be removed.

Clean-up and landscaping will wrap up in spring 2013.

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