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Local News

July 8, 2014

Replacement for viaduct bridge in Francis still in negotiations

Francis —  Pontotoc county commissioners and the Burlington-Northern-Santa-Fe Railroad are still negotiating a deal that could result in a new viaduct bridge on 12th Street in Francis.

The sticking point is which entity — the railroad or the county — will assume liability while the old bridge is being torn down and a new bridge is under construction.

Currently, the railroad owns the bridge but has offered to transfer ownership of the bridge to the county and provide a financial contribution of $50,000 toward the cost of a new bridge, which is estimated to run between $200,000 to $250,000, according to county officials.

The county wants the railroad to assume liability for the bridge during the construction period while the railroad proposes to transfer the bridge's ownership and liability to the county beforehand.

The contract proposal drawn up by the railroad company’s attorneys also includes some financial assistance to the county as it takes out the wooden BNSF bridge.

BNSF has offered to provide two flagmen per day throughout what is expected to be a 90-day construction process.

The old bridge will be replaced by a steel and concrete overpass bridge.

Pontotoc County Commissioner Gary Starns isn’t satisfied with the current proposed contract from BNSF.

“We’re building the bridge, and when it’s complete, they’re going to give us the bridge,” Starns said. “But they want us to assume liability for the bridge now. We are not going to do that. It’s their bridge. It’s always been their bridge. If they (the railroad) don’t like that, they can build the bridge for themselves.”

Starns said the county wants the railroad to continue to assume liability for the bridge during the demolition and construction phase.

BNSF spokesperson Joe Faust refused to comment on the negotiating points of the proposed contract. He indicated that the railroad is waiting on a counter proposal from attorneys for Pontotoc County.

“Once we hear from them, our attorneys will look it over and we’ll go from there,” Faust said.

A counter offer from the county is expected to be made shortly.

 

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