Bagnell Dam weight limit

The Bagnell Dam Bridge rehabilitation project is going to take longer than expected and when it’s completed, the bridge will have new weight restrictions, dropping from 40 tons (80,000 pounds) to 18 tons (36,000 pounds). That news was shared with the Lake Ozark Board of Aldermen last week by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

At the Nov. 9 board meeting, Lake Ozark Mayor Dennis Newberry and aldermen discussed how that reduced load limit would affect deliveries to restaurants and bars along the Bagnell Dam Strip. They talked about steps they felt MoDOT should take to alleviate issues caused by the new limits. More than one alderman said MoDOT should be required to either build a turnaround at the bottom of the Strip or provide an alternate route for trucks that were too large to make a U-turn. They discussed holding a work session to decide how to move forward.

However, in a later interview MoDOT District Engineer Bob Lynch said lowering weight limits was common on aging bridges, “and we’re not required to put turn-arounds in for them. Other routes just have to be utilized to get around that load-limit area.”

He also said that although MoDOT owns about 180 feet of Bagnell Dam Boulevard at the south end (Strip end) of the dam. Because they don’t own any right-of-way they wouldn’t have land available to build a turn-around, he said, adding “The city hasn’t approached us about this, but I believe our position would be that there’s a city street – Valley Road – that truck drivers could use to turn and head back out.”

Public Works Director Matt Michalik agreed. He said because Bagnell Dam Boulevard is so wide, even with vehicles parked in front of the Celebration Cruise Ships launch, most delivery drivers handle the U turn at the bottom of the Strip with ease. He also said those who don’t want to make the effort shouldn’t have any trouble using Valley Road.

“During the dam stabilization project concrete trucks, gravel trucks, and tractor trailers full of steel and heavy equipment all came down Business 54 and made a right turn on to Valley Road to go down below the dam. Only one got stuck on that corner – and he was a new driver carrying a 50,000-pound excavator on a flatbed trailer,” he said. “The only issue I see will be people who don’t know about the restriction coming from the north with a heavy load – but MoDOT will put signs up and within a short time, GPS apps will inform users of the restrictions.”

In the meantime, the rehabilitation project, which began Sept. 7, will continue. MoDOT Project Engineer Chris Graham said they initially planned to remove about 2 to 3 inches of concrete that was poured in the early 1980s and then replace it.

“To remove it we mill – break up – the first couple inches of concrete and then we use high-pressure water as a second process to remove the rest of the concrete. Once we started using the pressure, the concrete was coming loose to about 5 inches deep and in some areas the deterioration goes even deeper,” he said. “There’s no way to tell until you get in and get the existing concrete off of it.”

Graham said the wear was caused by a combination of age – the bridge was built more than 90 years ago – and winter weather.

“You put salt down to allow folks to travel and then the ice and snow melt and you’ve got salt residue getting down into the cracks and sitting there for years,” he explained. “Anyone who has used salt on the driveway knows how it can deteriorate concrete.”

Both Lynch and Graham said because they won’t know the extent of the damage until they complete the removal process, they can’t say when the dam will reopen to traffic.

Lynch also said although no one was happy about putting new weight restrictions on the bridge, they had no choice.

“The original intent of the rehabilitation project was to provide an additional 15 to 20 years of life. Based on what we found, the bridge division feels the load limit is required to obtain that. The next step would be a new bridge. It’s a 2,000-foot-long structure so that will be quite an involved project that would keep the dam shut down to traffic for more than a year,” he said.