The $287,000 Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) project to replace an old low-water crossing included the cooperative efforts of the city and Burlington Northern - Santa Fe Railway Company.
According to MoDOT, trains stopping to change crews in Thayer often led to the highway-rail crossing at Warm Fork Road to be blocked for long periods, cutting off access to the Cover Lumber yard and causing traffic delays and unsafe, illegal attempts by pedestrians to cross the tracks.
In January, a 63-year-old Oxford, Ark., man was killed while apparently attempting to cross through stopped train cars at the north end of the rail yard under Highway 63.
BNSF and MoDOT rail section staff determined the best solution to the long delay was to permanently close the highway/rail crossing at Warm Fork Road and make improvements to a nearby low-water crossing at Two Mile Creek where residents and lumberyard customers could cross instead.
MoDOT and BNSF agreed to use money that would have been spent on new lights and a gate to instead construct the bridge over Two Mile Creek because the old crossing was prone to continuous flooding.
The new structure, completed Dec. 22, 2010, has a higher elevation to prevent future flooding and ensure a safe and passable route for years to come, according to MoDOT officials.
"Together MoDOT, BNSF and the city of Thayer came up with an innovative solution and pooled our resources to make important safety improvements that will benefit local residents, business patrons and railroad employees," MoDOT railroad administrator Rod Massman said in a press release. "Motorists now have a much safer crossing over the creek and they no longer have to use an unprotected railroad crossing or wait for trains to clear the track."
MoDOT District 9 maintenance crews provided oversight of the design and construction of the new bridge. BNSF also built a fence parallel to the railroad track at the former crossing to help keep pedestrians safely away from the tracks.
"It was a pleasure to work with the city of Thayer to improve the safety along our facility," BNSF public projects manager Cheryl Townlian said. "In this case, it also improved the quality of life for the citizens by eliminating the only public at-grade crossing left in town."
Oregon County projects
Highway 160 -- MoDOT crews are now doing bridge maintenance on Barren Fork Creek west of Alton to improve the section where the road and bridge meet and prevent deterioration of the bridge deck or structure.
Highway 63 -- MoDOT crews are also now replacing concrete from Highway 142 to the Arkansas state line. While performing this function, crews and equipment are located directly on the roadway. Drying time is then necessary and the lane will remain closed until complete. Motorists are urged to exercise caution when moving through the work zone.
Route Y -- MoDOT will begin replacing the Frederick Creek Bridge on Route Y in March as part of the state's $685 million Safe and Sound bridge repair program. This bridge has been identified as one among 802 across the state with critical improvement needs. The bridges will be repaired or replaced by the end of 2013. So far, 196 new or improved bridges have been completed as part of the program.
The bridge is estimated to be closed for 57 days once construction begins. Traffic will be detoured to Highway 160 to Route U to Route 142.
"MoDOT is sensitive to the impact that will be felt by those who travel Route Y during the closure," MoDOT Bridge Engineer Ed Hess said last fall. "We have already been in touch with many key stakeholders to discuss school bus routes, emergency response and more."
Oregon County Southern Commissioner John Wrenfrow said the county appreciate's the state's effort to replace the bridge, which is often washed out in the spring, creating disruption for road-grading crews.
Also through the Safe and Sound program, MoDOT replaced the Louse Creek bridge on Route E in 2009. The project took 45 days.
For more information
For updates on the program, go to www.modot.org/southcentral/index and click on Safe & Sound. A statewide list of all bridges included in the program, as well as a map that can help traffic navigate around closures, are among the resources available statewide at http://www.modot.org/safeandsound.