City officials have permanently closed the 93-year-old Sycamore Street bridge over the railroad tracks west of downtown after inspectors found cracks in critical supports on Tuesday.
Carthage Mayor Mike Harris announced the closure, saying the safety of people who might use the bridge is paramount.
Traffic must now detour around the bridge using Walnut Street bridge just to the north or Chestnut Street to the south.
Carthage Public Works Director Zeb Carney said the bridge is inspected annually and this year’s inspection, by Missouri Department of Transportation bridge inspectors, found serious deterioration in the structure.
“This is it for that bridge,” Carney said. “It was built in 1920 and has reached the end of its life and we’re closing it permanently. We can’t even let pedestrians on it with these problems. We’ll be installing those concrete Jersey barriers you see on the interstates on Wednesday at the intersections east and west of the bridge to close it down. The alleys on either side of the bridge will remain open.”
Carney said the Sycamore Street bridge and Walnut Street bridge have similar construction, called fracture-critical construction. That means fractures in any one support member could cause the entire bridge to collapse.
Carney said inspectors also looked at the Walnut Street bridge, one block north of the Sycamore Street bridge, and while it is about the same age, they said it was still safe.
“The condition of the Walnut Street bridge hasn’t changed in the past several years,” Carney said.
The Oak Street Bridge, which was also built in the 1920s, was built using a different construction method and only needs to be inspected every two years.
Carney said that bridge is in much better condition.
The city, MoDOT and the railroad that operates underneath it have been in discussion for several years about renovating or replacing that bridge as well.
Railroad officials have insisted that the city significantly lengthen and raise the bridge if they build a new one. Similar requirements were placed on any work on the Walnut Street bridge in 2011 when Jasper County officials proposed using federal money to replace that one.