If the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge is demolished, it appears likely that Lebanon’s Route 66-themed Boswell Park and the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Museum will receive artifacts, including an actual section of the bridge for the park.
The Missouri Department of Transportation has not made a final decision on the future of the bridge, which has been closed since December 2014. The Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society board continues to support efforts by the Route 66 Association of Missouri to acquire the bridge, which is nearly a century old, and rehabilitate it for pedestrian traffic and other recreational use.
However, in recent weeks Karen Daniels, MoDOT’s senior historic preservation specialist, contacted Route 66 Society board member Gary Sosniecki, Lebanon-Laclede County Library and Museum Director Cathy Dame, who also is Route 66 Society secretary, and John Shelton, Lebanon Parks and Recreation director, to discuss “mitigation measures” if the bridge is removed.
Dame explained at Tuesday’s Route 66 Society board meeting that MoDOT is “trying to make (bridge removal) more palatable.”
Sosniecki has represented Route 66 Society interests at “Section 106” consultation meetings that have included more than 30 state and federal officials and preservationists. At a March 9 meeting, Sosniecki presented letters from Route 66 Society President Bruce Owen and Lebanon Parks and Recreation Director John Shelton asking that the sides of the “pony truss” be given to Lebanon Parks for creation of a pedestrian bridge in Boswell Park. Sosniecki also has asked for bridge remnants for the Route 66 Museum.
The pony truss is the westernmost span of the Gasconade bridge. Unlike the other three steel trusses, the sides of the pony truss are not joined at the top by cross braces.
Sosniecki said Tuesday that Daniels asked Shelton if MoDOT also could place an exhibit to provide the historical and engineering history of the bridge at Boswell Park. Shelton agreed.
Dame said she has had several productive conversations with Daniels about possible bridge exhibits at the museum. Dame’s suggestions included that the exhibit include personal “stories” about the bridge as well as “academic” records.
Daniels spoke well of Lebanon’s efforts, Dame said, because the Route 66 Society had submitted plans on how bridge remnants would be used.
But nothing should be expected soon. “The comment she made is ‘this is three years in the future,’” Dame said.
Despite wanting bridge remnants to be preserved in Lebanon, Sosniecki reiterated that the goal remains for the Gasconade River Bridge to stay in place.
“We all want the bridge to be saved,” he said. “But if not, we’re in good shape.”