Workers continue to install safety equipment on the bridge outside the East Gate May 19, before old paint and concrete can be removed. The gate is scheduled to open in January 2023, after improvements are made to the bridge that connects J Highway to Fort Leonard Wood.
Workers continue to install safety equipment on the bridge outside the East Gate May 19, before old paint and concrete can be removed. The gate is scheduled to open in January 2023, after improvements are made to the bridge that connects J Highway to Fort Leonard Wood. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Work to improve the safety of the 80-year-old bridge outside the East Gate continues, with a completion date now slated for January 2023.

This week, according to Dillon Barks, a civil engineer at the Directorate of Public Works, workers are continuing to install safety equipment under the bridge before they can remove deteriorating concrete and replace it with new decking.

Construction on the 420-foot-long bridge that connects J Highway to Fort Leonard Wood was originally scheduled to be completed much earlier, Barks said, but the scope of the project changed when more age-related problems on the World War II-era structure were found.

“We were originally planning to mill and resurface the asphalt deck while also sealing the underlying concrete,” Barks said. “We knew there was water penetrating both the asphalt and the concrete due to spalling on the underside of the concrete deck.”

Spalling is a term used to describe when concrete breaks into smaller pieces. In this case, the bridge — which crosses over the Big Piney River — had, over time, been damaged by water.

The additional work will have some added benefits, Barks said.

“We are replacing the bridge bearings at both abutments as well as re-painting the steel girders, which will assist with the longevity of the bridge,” he said.

Additionally, Barks said the old steel guardrails are being replaced with a concrete barrier that is tied into the deck, updating the bridge to current standards to further ensure the safety of traffic.

Once all of the safety equipment is in place, the old paint and concrete will be removed. Barks said the new decking is on order and scheduled to arrive in September. Once all of the materials arrive, the rebuild should be completed after the holidays.

“In the end, we will have a full-depth concrete deck instead of a deck with an asphalt finish,” Barks said. “The upgrades being done to the concrete will ensure one of the bridges people rely on every day to access the installation is safe. While it’s temporarily inconvenient for some of our commuters who have to travel to one of the other installation access points, the safety of every member of the Fort Leonard Wood community is always our most important concern.”