The Missouri Department of Transportation announced Thursday it will build a new bridge next to the closed Gasconade River Bridge near Hazelgreen and keep the historic bridge standing for now.
In the meantime, local preservationists will have to find an entity to take over ownership of the old bridge, or it eventually may be removed.
In a news release from MoDOT:
The majority of public comments stemming from a Dec. 14, 2016, public meeting held in Lebanon supported constructing a new bridge near I-44 and leaving the current facility, located on historic Route 66, intact. However, MoDOT has indicated all along that liability issues and limited funds would require the department to remove the bridge unless an outside entity stepped forward to take ownership of and maintain the bridge.
The current bridge will remain in place as the agency works through the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The act requires federal agencies and the recipients of federal funds, such as MoDOT, to consider the effects of projects on properties eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, such as the Gasconade River Bridge.
The agency hopes to open the new bridge by early 2019.
Kip Welborn of the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians told the Lebanon Daily Record his group and others will continue to look for ways to save the bridge so it can be used for recreational purposes.
“The Gasconade River Bridge is one of the last great examples of what Route 66 was in Missouri,” Welborn said.
The bridge, built in 1923, could easily handle pedestrians, bicycles and maybe even light cars, according to Welborn. He said his group and others intend to promote the idea of biking and hiking on the bridge.
Representatives from the Bridge Guardians group has approached Laclede County and other entities about the possibility to taking over control of the bridge.
The state closed Gasconade River Bridge in December 2014 after inspectors found serious deterioration.
According to Bridgehunter.com, the 525-foot bridge was built in 1922 to 1924 of three styles of trusses.