Options outlined for repair of Mitchell river bridge

What to with an aging North Platte River bridge south of Mitchell was the big topic of discussion Monday night between the Scotts Bluff County Board and state road and bridge officials. Even though the bridge is not structurally deficient, it is like many bridges in the state, just short of 100 years old and in need of repair.

District Five Department of Roads Engineer Craig Lind told the board "it is time to do something," laying out two options that would be paid for by the state. One option in the neighborhood of five to seven hundred thousand dollars would be a lot of preventative maintenance with the deck, guardrails, and joints to extend the life of the bridge. The other option would be replacing the bridge at an estimated cost of $3.5 million.

But the kicker is a 1986 inter-local agreement that says once the state rehabs the bridge, it then turns over to the county. The Commissioners' concern is that the high water from two years ago changed the course of the North Platte River, and any damage to the structure of the bridge could in the near future require replacing the bridge if the preventative maintenance option is chosen by the state.

Lind admitted it is tough when you "don't know the true intent" of an over 25 year old agreement, but Board Chair Mark Masterton said the county would be apprehensive about taking over a bridge that is "only repaired on top and is still a 100 year old bridge."

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