SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – These old truss bridges built in the early 1900s make for a magnificent sight as they overlook a snowy valley and a glistening river. But the functionality of these one lane structures is quite evident when you see cars that have to back up to allow other cars coming from the opposite direction or you see heavy trucks that cannot cross at all due to weak bridge weight limits.
“As historic and beautiful as they are and as much as we would love to save them, we still need to provide routes for emergency services and private services like propane and garbage,” said Miranda Beadles, Highways Administrator of the Christian County. “With the weight of ambulances, fire engines and school buses, it’s very restrictive. And so some routes have to go around and it takes longer to get to people. But that’s how it’s always been. »
So because of that and concern over the deteriorating condition of the structures, the Christian County Highway Department is receiving $8.1 million of the $17.2 million in the US bailout. of the county to replace three bridges:
The Red Bridge over Bull Creek on Red Bridge Rd. southeast of the Ozark
The Green Bridge over the Finley River on Smyrna Rd. northeast of Ozark
The Hawkins Bridge over the Finley River on Seneca Rd. south of Nixa
The American Rescue Plan Act was the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package approved by Congress last year.
“You can use it for government services and our government services include road and bridge maintenance,” Beadles said. “We have these three bridges that are over 100 years old each and that would really get us to a point where instead of always trying to catch up and replace things, we can start taking care of them.”
What if these funds were not available?
“I guess it would take us 80 to 100 years to be able to build those three bridges together,” Beadles replied.
Not far from the old Green Bridge is the new Riverside Bridge whose replacement history is better known. Plagued by flooding and in a state of decay, the old truss bridge at this location was closed and a project to replace it took around four years to materialize once the wheels were set in motion.
With respect to these three new projects, the county has yet to submit its structural plans and the only timeline is for federal law to require ARPA funds to be expended by 2026.
“We just posted an announcement for design and permission services for this,” Beadles said. “We will have to go through this process with all the historical preservation elements and then the actual construction and the auction. We also don’t know how long it will take a contractor to get the materials we will need. Then time will fly. It took four years for Riverside, but hopefully there will be a little less strife than with Riverside. We had a lot of road realignment with that one. Hopefully it will go a little faster. But designing and permitting still takes about a year or a year and a half and assuming you get the materials and contractors with free schedules, construction still takes a year to a year and a half.
The new Riverside Bridge, completed in 2021, is a modern-looking concrete bridge with space for pedestrians and vehicular traffic.
Beadles was asked if the new bridges would follow a similar design.
“It’s in the air right now,” she replied. “It will have to meet today’s standards, but what we’d like to do is kind of retain a kind of historical aesthetic feel, like reusing some of the old farmhouses. We know how important these bridges are to people because there aren’t many left. Going forward, these will no longer be single lane truss bridges, but if there is anything we can do to help maintain this historic and interesting bridge aesthetic, we would like to incorporate it.
The historic old Riverside Bridge ended up at Bass Pro’s Finley Farms next to the renovated Ozark Mill and many other groups are trying to save other old truss bridges around the country, including the Gasconade Bridge just in outside of Lebanon.
So, is there a chance that any of these three bridges will be saved when replaced?
“Absolutely,” Beadles said. “It’s sort of our first round of putting those bridges in place to see if anyone is able to get them and take care of them and insure them. It’s after that if no one wants it that we’ll think about what we can do to avoid having to completely demolish these old bridges.
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