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Bridge repair could take at least 2 months

OTTUMWA – It could be at least two months until construction starts to repair a pedestrian bridge that was hit by a semi truck over the weekend.

Damage estimates total about $75,000 to the walk bridge over Iowa 149 near Eisenhower Elementary School, according to an Ottumwa police report.

At about 8:15 a.m. Saturday, Vasko Vasilevski, 61, of Carol Stream, Ill., was hauling a wide-load wind turbine. The semi and its escort vehicle made a wrong turn and drove into Ottumwa. The highest point of the wind turbine caught the walk bridge and caused extensive damage to the bridge, according to the police report.

An Iowa Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Enforcement officer issued several citations Saturday, said DOT Capt. Jon McQuoid. Vasilevski was given more than $39,000 in citations.

“Oversized loads like that we have special routes they can run,” McQuoid said. “[They were] off the designated route, which means they don’t have a permit to be there.”

Vasilevski was given fines for the oversized load and weight citations, McQuoid added.

City officials have closed the bridge, which is used by Eisenhower students and other pedestrians to get over Highway 149.

Students who use the bridge have been asked to find a different route to get across the highway.

A note was sent out Monday to parents of Eisenhower students, said Principal Deb Cook. Parents will have the option of calling the school’s bus company and arranging for the child to take the bus from one side of the highway to the other, she said.

“Right now, indefinitely, the children will just have the access to the current bus systems. It’s unfortunate for these little guys who live right across the street,” Cook said.

The bridge will now need major deck work and steel work, said Ottumwa Public Works Director Larry Seals. The structure of the bridge is still safe to drive under, he added.

“We’ll be lucky to start work and actual construction in two months,” Seals said. “We’re hoping by the next school year to have it open.”

The city plans to work with the trucking company’s insurance company to pay for the repairs.

The bridge was struck at least once before, about 10 years ago, Seals said.