Retiring MoDOT bridge inspector shares knowledge of state’s aging infrastructure at tour on Route B

By: 
Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

REDBIRD — Alan Trampe  is retiring a week from Thursday after 35 years of inspecting Missouri’s bridges for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

As a district bridge engineer, Trampe knows their history.

The Route B bridge over Clear Creek south of Redbird, No. S-0634, was the site of Gov. Mike Parson’s visit Thursday afternoon to promote his “Focus on Bridges” bonding campaign. It was built in 1934 and is approximately 85-years-old — 10 years older than its life expectancy, according to Trampe. 

MoDOT workers speculated that the bridge may have been one lane between 20 and 30 years ago and was upgraded to a narrow two-lane bridge. However, it is past the point that it can be fixed with maintenance now.

“We are out here in rural Missouri, which may not get as much traffic or as much salt,” said Trampe, a 35-year district bridge engineer for MoDOT. “Salt is our enemy; that’s why the deck usually falls apart and why the steel rusts so bad.”

Bridge No. S-0634 has lasted longer than the life expectancy it was designed for and is scheduled to be replaced in 2022, according to the governor’s infrastructure plan. Trampe said he has inspected nearly every bridge in Missouri and rates them in three parts by their design. Bridge No. S-0634 is rate on the following.

“The deck is rated a four, that makes it on the poor list,” Trampe explained. “The steel girders are rated a five, so they are barely fair and the substructure is rated a six because if you look at it there is not a whole lot of deterioration or visible problems with that.”

Bridges are rated one to nine. Nine is like a brand new bridge. Two and below is closed.

“So three is the lowest we rate and it still be open for traffic,” Trampe said. “We have three major categories. We rate the deck — that’s the concrete surface. We rate the beams and then we rate the concrete units that are holding up the steel beams.”

Trampe said sometimes MoDOT can extend the life of a structure by fixing one of the three categories. Bridge No. S-0634 has been expanded and its girders have been reinforced once already. It is not eligible to receive another maintenance upgrade.

“The design standards that we used back then are way different than what we use now,” Trampe said. “If you look at a bridge from the 1960s on, they are a size-and-a-half to two times the size of those columns.”

Trampe said he didn’t have time to look at the plans for this particular bridge, but this structure is typical of only having four pieces of rebar in each base.

“Now they have a huge cage around it, and stirrups that tie it all together,” Trampe said. “It looks bad, but it’s still safe.”

If MoDOT deems the bridge is not safe before they are replaced, they are closed.

Trampe plans to retire from his position with MoDOT Feb. 28.