Time to save the closed Gasconade River Bridge near Hazelgreen, Missouri, from demolition is running out, as a contract to raze the historic Route 66 span may be awarded by mid-2020.
Gary Sosniecki of the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society wrote that no progress was made this week during one of several “last-ditch” efforts to save the bridge in a meeting with officials from the Lebanon city commission, Laclede County commission and the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians.
Nicole McGinnis, tourism director for the city of Lebanon and a member of the Route 66 Society board, told the society:
The Guardians, who have been trying to save the bridge since it was closed to traffic in December 2014, were hoping that a city-county partnership could pursue grants for rehabilitating the bridge for pedestrian and other recreational use. With such a partnership, the Guardians hoped to convince the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to delay the bridge’s demolition.
McGinnis said the problem with the idea “comes down to possession.” Laclede County can’t afford to take on a project of this magnitude, and the city of Lebanon can’t take on a project outside its boundaries.
She said the Guardians are exploring whether the bridge could be part of some larger governmental unit. They also are trying to meet with Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, whose general counsel attended the opening of the replacement bridge in August.
But efforts to save the bridge are running out of time. MoDOT advertised that the bridge was available for reuse by other parties, but the legally required period for a new owner to be found has expired. “MoDOT just wants it off its inventory list,” McGinnis said.
The Guardians requested additional time to market the bridge to possibly interested parties, but that was rejected.
A historic preservation specialist stated in an email the Missouri Department of Transportation has scheduled a letting of bids to demolish the bridge for April 17, 2020. Sosniecki also reported MoDOT has listed “bridge removal” of the Gasconade span on a May 15, 2020, tentative letting schedule.
MoDOT has scheduled a meeting for Dec. 9 in Jefferson City to discuss the status of the bridge.
State officials closed the bridge in December 2014 after an inspection revealed grave deterioration in the 90-year-old structure. MoDOT later built a new bridge a few yards away from the old bridge and Interstate 44.
(Image of the Gasconade River Bridge courtesy of MaryPetrina Photography)