Missouri Route 66 president confronts MoDOT over its rejection of Gasconade Bridge proposal

The president of the Route 66 Association of Missouri on Tuesday confronted the Missouri Department of Transporation with its contradictions and accused the agency of acting “in bad faith” over the association’s proposal to take over ownership and preserve the closed Gasconade River Bridge.

According to a report from the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society, association President Rich Dinkela levied the accusations during a virtual consultation hearing that is required to determine how the bridge’s possible removal might be mitigated. MoDOT in February rejected the association’s plan for the bridge to eventually convert it to pedestrian and/or bicycle use.

Dinkela said MoDOT’s letter of rejection “was kind of insulting and kind of a smack in the face.”
A major obstacle has been the insurance MoDOT wants the Route 66 Association of Missouri to carry on the bridge considering that the state has three other bridges downriver in close proximity.
“The insurance policy your counsel suggested doing does not exist,” Dinkela argued. “It’s an impossible hurdle to overcome. . . . It’s kind of a big joke, in my opinion.”
Dinkela said the state association has demonstrated its ability to raise funds, another issue MoDOT raised. He also claimed MoDOT has been inconsistent in how it is treating the Gasconade River Bridge compared to other bridges formerly on the state system that preservationists have taken over.
“You guys aren’t acting in good faith,” he said.

Dinkela also detailed his misgivings with MoDOT in a Facebook Live video before the meeting.

He also said in the video: “These are the last days of the bridge. If you live anywhere near the bridge, you might want to go check it out soon because I cannot guarantee its existence over the next 12 months.”

Betsy Merritt, deputy general counsel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, weighed in during the hearing, saying the organization is “extremely concerned” about MoDOT’s rationale about the insurance coverage and that an “impossible insurance requirement is absolutely unjustified.”

Phillip Denton, an attorney who is an association member, also criticized MoDOT’s insurance requirement that is “literally impossible to achieve.” He also accused MoDOT of never having any intention to donate the bridge to the association.

In a separate story, the Route 66 society reported if the bridge is torn down, the westernmost Pony truss of the span might be used in the Route 66-themed Boswell Park in Lebanon.

Daniel said that if the bridge isn’t saved in place, MoDOT would work with Lebanon to make the Boswell Park project happen. Later in the meeting, she explained that a transfer agreement would need to be negotiated. The agreement would include a timeline and details on how the Lebanon groups would get the pony-truss sides from where MoDOT sets them down to Boswell Park.
Of other “mitigation measures” offered by the more than 30 state and federal officials and preservationists at the meeting, nobody else asked for remnants of the bridge. Jax Welborn of the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians proposed that, if the bridge is demolished, historical markers be placed at the east and west ends of where the bridge stood. The markers would give the history of the bridge and directions to Boswell Park, where the pony truss could be seen.

In the interim, Dinkela urges Route 66 enthusiasts to write or call these officials, urging the preservation of the bridge:

Gov. Mike Parson
573- 751-3222

Missouri Department of Transportation

Patrick McKenna

Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Carol Comer

State Historic Preservation Office
Dr. Toni M. Prawl

Director of Tourism
Stephen Foutes
(573) 751-4133

Missouri Department of Economic Development
Rob Dixon

Highway Commission chairman
Michael T Walters

Dinkela states: “Be sure to be polite when conversing with others on the phone. Please explain you would like to express your concerns over the fate of the Gasconade Bridge on Route 66 in Laclede County, MO.”

State officials closed the nearly century-old bridge in December 2014 after an inspection revealed grave deterioration in the structure.

MoDOT later built a new bridge a few yards away from the old bridge and Interstate 44.

(Image of the Gasconade River Bridge near Hazelgreen, Missouri, in September 2014 by Indtrigg via Flickr)

4 thoughts on “Missouri Route 66 president confronts MoDOT over its rejection of Gasconade Bridge proposal

  1. It’s a shame that the state of Missouri has their head in the sand about how much Route 66 tourism brings to their state. They’ll claim it’s about the money until there’s something they want to save, then it’s a different story. People need to wake up to whom they elect. One example of this is Texas and their power issue. There’s a lot of folks down there getting it up the you-know-what over that fiasco.

  2. I have sensed from the start of the discussion about the future of the bridge that the MoDoT has never had any wish to see the bridge preserved in any form whatsoever. My first email to the Department received a reply, but the next one did not – as if no one wanted to answer my further basic questions. Once the subject of insurance is brought into any discussionn about anything, all reality can get lost. What are the real costs of retaining the bridge as a cycleway, bridleway and footway? And what would be the cost of demolishing the bridge? There are many former railway and road bridges in the UK that are now cycleways and footways, with no one raising the false demon of insurance. The MoDoT has made its mind up from the start; it is as simple as that.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.