Christian County using American Rescue Plan money to replace three of the county’s oldest single-lane bridges

Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 6:24 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Those old truss bridges built in the early 1900′s are a beautiful sight as they loom over a snow-covered valley and sparkling river. But the functionality of these one-lane structures is quite evident when you see cars having to back-up to allow other cars coming from the opposite direction or see heavy trucks who can’t cross at all because of the bridge’s low weight limits.

“As historic and beautiful as they are and as much as we’d like to save them, we still have to provide routes for emergency services and private services like propane and trash,” explained Miranda Beadles, Christian County’s Highway Administrator. ““With the weight of ambulances, firetrucks and school buses it’s very restrictive. And so some routes have to go around and it takes longer to get to folks. But that’s just the way it’s always been.”

So because of that and concern over the deteriorating condition of the structures, the Christian County Highway Department is getting $8.1 million of the county’s $17.2 million in American Rescue Plan money to replace three bridges:

The Red Bridge over Bull Creek on Red Bridge Rd. southeast of Ozark

The Green Bridge over the Finley River on Smyrna Rd. northeast of Ozark

The Hawkins Bridge over the Finley River on Seneca Rd. south of Nixa

The American Rescue Plan Act was the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package approved by Congress last year.

“You can use it for government services and our government services include taking care of roads and bridges,” Beadles said. “We have these three bridges that are over 100 years-old apiece and so this would really get us to a point where instead of always trying to play catch-up and replacing things, we can start taking care of them.”

And if these funds weren’t available?

“I would guess it would take anywhere from 80 to another 100 years for us to be able to do these three bridges together,” Beadles answered.

Not far from the old Green Bridge is the new Riverside Bridge whose replacement story is more well-known. Plagued by flooding and it’s decaying condition the old truss bridge at that location was closed and a project to replace it took some four years to come to fruition once the wheels were set in motion.

When it comes to these three new projects the county hasn’t come up with its structural plans yet and the only timetable is that federal law requires that the ARPA funds be spent by 2026.

“We have just advertised for the design and permitting services for this,” Beadles said. “We’ll have to go through that process along with any historic preservation items then actual construction and bidding. We don’t know how long it will take a contractor to get the actual materials we’ll need either. So time will fly. It took four years for Riverside but we’re hoping there’s a little less right-of-way conflict than we had with Riverside. We had a lot of road realignment with that one. Hopefully this will go a little quicker. But still the design and permitting takes about a year or a year-and-a-half and assuming you get the materials and contractors with free schedules, the construction takes another year to a year-and-a-half.”

The new Riverside bridge, completed in 2021, is a modern-looking concrete bridge with space for both pedestrians and car traffic.

Beadles was asked if the new bridges would follow a similar design.

“That’s up in the air right now,” she replied. “It will have to meet current standards but what we’d like to do is somehow keep some kind of historical aesthetic feel to them like repurpose some of the old trusses. We know how important these bridges are to folks because there’s not many left. Now they won’t be single-lane truss bridges anymore but if there’s something we can do to help continue that historical and interesting bridge aesthetic, we would love to incorporate that.”

The old historic Riverside Bridge ended up at Bass Pro’s Finley Farms next to the refurbished Ozark Mill and there are many other groups trying to save other old truss bridges all across the country including the Gasconade Bridge just outside Lebanon.

So is there a chance that any of these three bridges could be saved when they’re replaced?

“Absolutely,” Beadles said. “That’s kind of our first round is to put those bridges out to see if anybody is able to get them, take care of them and insure them. It’s after that if no one wants them that we will consider what we can do to not have to completely demolish those old bridges.”

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