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Railroad confirms it’s removing deck from MacArthur Bridge October 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Railroad.
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This was reported 10 months ago, but the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis confirmed through a KPLR-TV report this week it is removing the automobile deck from the historic MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis.

The railroad told the TV station the deck was a risk to rail traffic.

“Trespassers, ya know, you don’t want them having access to the truss,” Eric Fields of the Terminal Railroad Association said. “And if you could do some damage to the truss, you interrupt navigation. You interrupt rail traffic. It was a concern on a national scale.”

Readers here already know this is happening, because Rich Dinkela reported it in December. Here’s a video he produced that explains the history of the bridge:

And this part of the station’s story is interesting in the disconnect:

Patti Saunders was among a number of Route 66 fans from across the country who contacted Fox 2 about the demolition of the deck.

“With all the efforts to bring Route 66 back to life, I would have thought more consideration would have been given to the historical value of this bridge,” she said.

But with security concerns, combined with bad location, the owners say it’s future as an automotive crossing has long since passed.

“The interstate connections just aren’t there,” Fields said. “The Poplar Street bridge has better connections. The” Stan the Man” span has better connections. Ead’s Bridge was restored. This was never going to be a vital road use again.”

Fields clearly is thinking of the bridge as a modern-day commuter link between the metro-east and St. Louis, while Route 66 tourists are thinking it can be used for tourism reasons, either as a sparsely used automobile path or a bicycle/pedestrian trail, such as the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

It should be noted that for decades, the bridge has been fenced off in East St. Louis and small part of the roadway deck removed in the middle.

At least nothing will happen to the bridge itself in the foreseeable future. It reportedly carries 30 to 40 trains daily and more than 100 million tons of cargo annually.

The MacArthur Bridge opened to traffic in 1917, back when it was called the St. Louis Municipal Bridge or Free Bridge. It was renamed for Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1942. It was one of several bridges that carried Route 66 over the Mississippi River.

(Image of the MacArthur Bridge in 2011 by cmh2315fl via Flickr)

Route 66 in Mojave may reopen by late November October 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Highways, Preservation, Weather.
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Long sections of historic Route 66 that were closed in mid-September because of extensive flood damage may reopen by late November, reported The Press-Enterprise.

The newspaper had more details about the damage:

In some spots there are holes large enough to swallow one of the motorcycles belonging to tourist groups that regularly retrace the Western route.

Those travelers and others now have to detour off of Route 66 between Newberry Springs and Needles, taking I-40 instead. San Bernardino County officials estimate it will take $1.4 million to fix the damage. […]

Brendon Biggs is deputy director of operations for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Works. He’s overseeing a workforce of 20 to 30 people making repairs to Route 66.

“Right now it’s high on the priority list,” Biggs said. “We want to get the road open.”
The flooding that hit the region was almost unprecedented, he said.

“We had multiple locations of severe damage,” he said. “We had approximately 40 bridges damaged in some way along with the road surface itself.”

The newspaper talked to several businesspeople in the desert who are suffering because travelers either can’t get to them or are deciding to bypass that area altogether on Interstate 40 between Needles, California, and Newberry Springs, California. That would include the small settlements of Essex, Amboy, Chambless, Cadiz, Goffs and Ludlow.

One Route 66 News reader recently took a few images of damaged roads and bridges in that area.

Biggs said even when Route 66 finally reopens, the county will have to eventually replace some bridges. He said the highway contains 127 timber bridges built in the 1930s, and replacing them will take longer because the improved structures will have to fit the road’s historic context. But when it finally happens, the road will wash out less often.

In the interim, many of those bridges will be limited to vehicles three tons or less in weight. That leaves out big RVs and tour buses — not an insignificant part of Route 66 tourism.

Amboy and its flagship business Roy’s still can be accessed from Interstate 40 through Kelbaker Road. You can check San Bernardino County’s progress in fixing the highway through this web page.

The part of the article that stings most is when the Press-Enterprise reporter talks to a clerk at the Desert Oasis gas station, just off Interstate 40 near Essex.

She said she recently had a conversation with a man from France who told her how much he and other Europeans revere the road.

“He said, ‘We don’t understand why you don’t take care of it,’” she said.

(Image of “Road Closed” sign by The Local People Photo Archive via Flickr)

Long-delayed overpass project in Missouri may restart August 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Bridges.
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A long-dormant project to beautify a Route 66 overpass in Sunset Hills, Missouri, may be active again after a local group meets with the Missouri Department of Transportation, reported the South County Times.

The Sunset Hills Special Projects Committee, which met for the first time since 2008, met last week to talk about proposed improvements in the St. Louis suburb. Alderman Donna Ernst is leading the group.

Topics discussed ranged from the practical, like a simple concrete pad to support a trash barrel near a Lindbergh Boulevard bus stop, to the conspicuously ornate — a face-lift for the Route 66/Watson Road Overpass at Lindbergh Boulevard.

“It could become the jewel of the city, if it’s done right,” Ernst said of the overpass idea, which emerged as the committee’s early priority. “We have a huge shopping district. If we could make (the overpass) pedestrian-friendly with more sidewalks and a walk-over bridge, it would only enhance that.”

Ernst’s vision, based on a 50th anniversary calendar concept rendering, would expand sidewalks and add ornate light standards and granite accents to the bridge plus landscaping around its base.

A vintage image of the Watson Road and Lindbergh Boulevard overpass in that part of the St. Louis region is posted above, via 66Postcards.com. Whether that’s 100 percent what Ernst has in mind remains unknown. But even a close approximation of that appearance would be a very good thing indeed.

The interchange was part of the first cloverleaf west of the Mississippi River when it opened in 1931. It was replaced in the 1980s by a diamond interchange.

MoDOT would have to approve any changes for the bridge.

Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program announces 2014 grants July 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, History, Motels, Signs.
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The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program on Thursday announced five cost-share grants totaling $77,000 for 2014, including one for an endangered bridge in Oklahoma.

Here are the recipients:

Rock Creek Bridge, Sapulpa, Oklahoma ($5,013 National Park Service grant, $5,013 match by recipient)– The bridge carried traffic on Route 66 from 1926 until 1952. The bridge, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been closed to traffic in recent years. Ongoing repairs and interventions by the City of Sapulpa will help it meet recommendations by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation so the bridge can be reopened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Skylark Motel neon tower rehabilitation, St. Clair, Missouri  ($22,300 NPS, $22,300 match) –The motel, which opened in 1952, is marked by a two-story, Art Deco tower that sported multicolored neon lights behind glass blocks. The VFW that now owns the property is working with the Route 66 Association of Missouri’s Neon Heritage Preservation Committee to restore the tower.

L Motel rehabilitation, Flagstaff, Arizona ($9,800 NPS, $46,063 match) – The grant will aid with the new owners’ ongoing rehabilitation of the motel, including heating and air conditioning systems. The L Motel has operated continuously along Route 66 since 1949.

American Indians and Route 66 materials, New Mexico ($24,900 NPS, $29,651 match) – The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association will develop educational and travel materials for the public that will include information about the tribes along Route 66 and their cultural heritage; significant tribal sites along the route; historical impacts of Route 66 on tribes; and the impact of tribal culture on Route 66.

Route 66 oral history project, Springfield, Missouri ($15,000 NPS, $33,880 match) – The Missouri State University Libraries will undertake a project to save for posterity many under-told stories of the Ozarks, including African-American experiences of Route 66. It will collect at least 20 oral-history interviews, which will be digitized and made available online.

The cost-share grant program provides assistance for historic preservation, research, oral history, interpretative, and educational projects. Since 2001, 119 projects have awarded a total of $1.7 million, with $2.9 million in cost-share match, totaling $4.6 million in public and private investment for Route 66.

(Image of the Rock Creek Bridge by carterse via Flickr)

Rock Creek Bridge may reopen in next month June 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Highways, History, Preservation.
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The historic Rock Creek Bridge, which has been closed to traffic since March 2013, may reopen to lighter vehicles sometime next month, according to a city official in nearby Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

Suzanne Shirey, president of the Sapulpa Area Chamber of Commerce, revealed the plans for the 1921 bridge during an email a few days ago:

We are looking to open the bridge in mid July.  We will have to build barriers to restrict vehicles over 3 ton from entering.  These barriers will be away from the bridge so they will not obstruct the view for photos.

It will be interesting to see the eventual layout of the new barriers. With a three-ton limit, that would allow all motorcycles, almost all cars and most pickup trucks.

A state inspection last spring deemed the bridge unsafe for all traffic, and local officials placed barriers and big chunks of concrete to keep people from driving on it. Pedestrians could walk around the barriers to the bridge, however.

Follow-up questions about the bridge weren’t answered. But Shirey made it clear the bridge will be at least partly reopened by mid-summer.

The Rock Creek Bridge served Route 66 from 1926 until 1952, when officials realigned the highway to the south. The Rock Creek Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Currently, the only way to reach the 3.5-mile stretch of the original Ozark Trail alignment of Route 66 is several miles west, near a Shell gas station. Don’t count on driving through the parking lot of the VFW hall near the bridge; access to the Ozark Trail is often blocked by a gate.

Here’s a video we produced a couple of years ago, before the bridge was closed:

(Image of the Rock Creek Bridge by David Sugden via Flickr)

A chat with Rich Dinkela June 4, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, People, Road trips, Web sites.
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KC Keefer, the guy behind the ongoing Genuine Route 66 Life video series, produced a new clip about “Roamin’ Rich” Dinkela. The interview occurred at the closed MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis.

For a seven-minute clip, it nicely encompasses Dinkela’s approach and his many activities on the Mother Road.

You can follow Dinkela at his YouTube channel here, on Facebook here, on Twitter here, and on his Hooked on Route 66 website.

Devil’s Elbow Bridge reopens to traffic May 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Preservation.
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The historic Devil’s Elbow Bridge along Route 66 in Devil’s Elbow, Missouri, reopened to traffic Thursday — three months early — after much-needed repairs were completed.

The blog of Pulaski County Tourism Bureau has the details of the unannounced reopening:

Pulaski County Commissioner Gene Newkirk noted that the first vehicles to cross the bridge were all from out of state, and that the second group, several motorcycles, were international Route 66 enthusiasts. […]

One excited motorist even honked their horn in celebration as they crossed the bridge that had been closed to traffic for seven months.

Some of the signage that was removed during the bridge rehabilitation is now located at Pulaski County Visitors Center (137 St. Robert Boulevard, Suite A, Saint Robert) for Route 66 fans to see and photograph.

More photographs from Thursday:

For comparison, here’s what the bridge looked like before the repairs:

A ceremony marking the bridge’s reopening will be scheduled within the next week or so.

The early reopening is very good news for Devil’s Elbow residents, who see a lot of tourism traffic from Route 66ers and canoe users on the Big Piney River during the summer months.

A variety of funding was used for the $1.3 million bridge-rehabilitation project, including from the Missouri Department of Transportation, Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Development, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and Pulaski County.

The truss bridge, built in 1923, is nearly 600 feet long. It sits near the Elbow Inn restaurant and bar, a popular hangout for Route 66ers, bikers and Fort Leonard Wood soldiers.

(Image of the Devil’s Elbow Bridge in 2010 by the Missouri Department of Tourism; all other photos courtesy of Pulaski County Tourism Bureau)

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