By Chris Umscheid
SUTLIFF– Three and a half years after historic flooding nearly destroyed it, the Sutliff Bridge reconstruction project has begun.
The controversial project was given the final green light in November with the Johnson County Board of Supervisors awarding the bid for construction work to Iowa Bridge and Culvert, Inc. of Washington. The firm delivered the lowest of six bids at nearly $1.6 million. Previous estimates by VJ Engineering, the firm hired by the County to oversee the project, were around $2.4 million. The project is being funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Heavy machinery, including a crane with a pile driver, was positioned at the west end of the bridge last week as replacing the 155-foot long timber approach, which was completely destroyed in the flooding, began. The bridge is to be rebuilt as close to its original 1898 appearance as possible, with modern materials, methods (bolts instead of rivets, for example) and contemporary safety enhancements.
Work to repair and strengthen the surviving two Parker-style iron truss spans and replacing the missing east span will begin in late summer or early fall after replacement steel parts are fabricated to replicate the original iron construction.
Brian Uitermarkt, owner and vice-president of Iowa Bridge and Culvert said the project should still be completed this fall, but reiterated the timing is dependent on availability of the steel components.