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Ozark city leaders consider future of Finley River Bridge

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 10:19 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Changes could be coming for the aging Finley River Bridge in Ozark. The city is challenged with preserving its history, while keeping traffic moving.

The Finley River Bridge is an Ozark staple.

“It’s a very iconic structure. It’s a very historic structure for the city of Ozark,” said Steve Childers, Ozark’s City Administrator.

Childers said history and efficiency don’t always go hand in hand.

“You’re balancing historic preservation and transportation and let’s face it, sometimes that’s really hard to do,” he said.

Childers said the decades-old structure is deteriorating rapidly.

“This bridge you see behind me only scores about 23 to 25 out of 100 every year, so we’re very close to the end of its life,” Childers said.

It does not meet minimum standards for a two-lane bridge. It’s also cracking after years of major flooding. Heavy traffic doesn’t help.

“You have a structure that needs to be repaired but it’s very expensive to do that,” said Childers.

He said it could cost between $500,000 to $1 million to restore, which is not in the budget.

The city of Ozark is anticipating the McCracken Street bridge to soon see increased traffic because of the Finley Farms development, causing the bridge to get much worse much faster, and need a total replacement. That’s what the city wants to avoid.

“It’s something that we want to save and if limiting the access to the bridge is the only way to save it, which we don’t know, we’re trying to figure out, that may be one of the options,” Childers said.

He said one option not on the table is selling the bridge to Bass Pro Shops founder, and Finley Farms developer Johnny Morris.

“Would it be more advantageous for the historic preservation to maybe make the bridge a one-way bridge,” Childers said.

He said creating it into a pedestrian bridge might be another option. Childers stressed it will be hard to know the effects of possible options with the bridge until other transportation projects in the city are complete.

It’s a delicate balance of decisions and data, that the city doesn’t have quite yet.

Engineers did a traffic study last weekend to see how traffic would flow in other parts of the city without the bridge in service. Ozark plans to have community meetings with citizens to discuss possible options for the bridge going forward. Those could start as early as this fall.

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