Blondy Jhune Road closed for bridge reconstruction


Mandy Halbert

Blondy Jhune Road was officially closed down in September and expected to last until April.

Mandy Halbert, Staff Reporter

Drilling for eight shafts has begun on the east bridge replacement project taking place on Blondy Jhune Road in Lucas, according to updates on the city’s website.

The shafts will hold the legs of the abutments that hold up each end of the bridge.

The replacement of the east and west bridges officially began in August, causing the road to be completely shut off starting in September. The project is expected to be completed in April of this year.

“Over the years, the bridges have taken a lot of abuse,” Lucas Mayor Jim Olk said. “There used to be a gravel quarry in that area, and the trucks used to come down through Blondy Jhune and really tore up those bridges. The city council decided they needed to do something about the safety.”

The original construction of the bridges was “very poor,” Olk said. Weather and heavy traffic caused extensive structural damage that was not visible until reconstruction began.

“The purpose of the reconstruction is two-fold,” city engineer Stanton Foerster said. “One, the condition of the bridges was poor, and they had exceeded their design life. The second is to try to prevent anymore flooding of the bridges and provide a wider bridge. The project was about a year-and-a-half in the coming.”

When Foerster started his job in June of 2013, he found in his own inspections that reconstruction of both bridges was necessary for public safety.

“If we had gone much longer, I would have had to just close the bridges and not allowed traffic over them because they were becoming unstable,” Foerster said. “When we went to demo the eastern bridge, we realized the deck of the bridge was not connected, and during several flooding events it had actually floated four inches to the south. Another foot and it would have collapsed.”

The western bridge also has damage that had been previously repaired.

“There was a hole in it that was about two feet in diameter,” Foerster said. “We had plated it and it was still structurally sound, but it was time to fix some geometry and to put in a modern structure.”

The project is dependant on the manufacturing and delivering of the bridge beams. The contractor is currently preparing for the beams by constructing retaining and gabion walls.

“The goal is to have everything else in place so that the beams can be set in place off the truck and the work that goes on above that can proceed,” Foerster said. “Once the beams go on then they will do they road work; they kind of start at the bottom and work up.”

Community response to the project has been mostly positive due to the outreach and communication between city officials and residents.

“The community told us that they were concerned about those bridges overall,” Olk said. “They understand the need to replace those bridges. We had public meetings and talked to those people and talked about what was going on so we keep them aware of what’s been progressing and what’s going on. We’ve had only a few complaints because of the outreach that’s been going on.”

Sophomore Mitchell Massey said that despite the inconvenience, he understands the need for the construction.

“I’m glad the work is being done,” Massey said. “That road is not the best, and that bridge is so bad. It needed it be fixed, and yeah, it’s inconvenient, but it’s not that far of a detour.”