No progress was made Monday in one of several last-ditch efforts to delay demolition of the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge, the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society board learned at its monthly meeting Tuesday.
Nicole McGinnis, tourism director for the city of Lebanon and a member of the Route 66 Society board, reported that Lebanon City Administrator Mike Schumacher and Laclede County Presiding Commissioner Randy Angst met Monday with Judy Wallmark of the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians at the Guardians’ request.
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.
In an Oct. 30 email to bridge supporters, a MoDOT historic preservation specialist wrote:
“The initial marketing period, for 313 days, resulted in a letter of interest from Workin’ Bridges, who requested time to do a feasibility study and determine if they could gather support for rehabilitating the bridge in place. When Workin’ Bridges backed out of the project, MoDOT initiated a second round of bridge marketing for a period of 380 days (ending March 15, 2019). At the end of that time the Gasconade Bridge Guardians requested additional time to do targeted marketing. Since they could not present a plan on how they intended to do that marketing, MoDOT decided not to grant them additional time.
“However, we were aware that Laclede County was showing interest in taking over the bridge, so we gave them time to explore options, without scheduling the letting for the demolition of the bridge. We are now aware that Laclede County does not want to take over the bridge and are unaware of any group actively pursuing taking over the bridge. Therefore, MoDOT has scheduled the demolition for the April 17, 2020 letting.”
MoDOT has scheduled a meeting for next Monday in Jefferson City to discuss the current status of the bridge.
The “bridge removal” currently is listed on MoDOT’s May 15, 2020, tentative letting schedule, with a contract to be awarded in June.