Back then, a combine header was 6 to 8 feet wide. Today we have machines traveling up and down rural roads with headers up to 36 feet wide and with five to 10 times the weight they used to be.
Recently a farmer in the Tampa area called to ask me to look at an old bridge that is so narrow he was afraid he would fall off one side or the other because the outside of the tires on his machine were wider than the culvert bridge on Mustang Road.
This old bridge looked to me to be made out of utility poles and old bridge timber some 30 to 50 years ago. The old structure will have to be removed and then replaced with a 24-foot long culvert simply to accommodate his combine and its 30-foot-wide header.
In the brief time I was with the road and bridge department, I was asked twice by farmers to remove the banisters on old narrow bridges so they could get their combines across without going several miles around to get to their fields.
This would seem like a simple solution to the problem, but it also could result in serious consequences if other individuals driving along the road don’t know the bridge has no side banister protection. If an accident were to occur, the county would be held legally responsible.
I’ve said all there is to say. That’s why we declined to remove the banisters. Requests like this need to be investigated and a reason given for a “no” response.
Editor’s note: Martin Rhodes resigned Oct. 31 as director of public works for Marion County. Even so, we feel his series of articles on county roads is of public interest and we plan to complete the series.