Inspecting Gasconade River Bridge

Bruce Owen, left, president of the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society, and Vice President Leland Townsend inspect the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge on June 17.

If the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge is torn down, a small piece of the historic bridge could be preserved in Lebanon’s Route 66-themed Boswell Park, the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society board learned Tuesday at its monthly meeting.

In a written report, board member Gary Sosniecki said the Missouri Department of Transportation was receptive to such a request from the Route 66 Society when MoDOT held a Section 106 meeting about the bridge on June 23.

Sosniecki explained that a Section 106 meeting is required when MoDOT considers demolition of something historic, like the bridge. The purpose is to consider ways to minimize the impact of the demolition.

Route 66 Society President Bruce Owen, Vice President Leland Townsend and Sosniecki went to the bridge prior to the meeting and decided to request that MoDOT give the Route 66 Society the girders that comprise the west entrance. Their idea was to use those as an arch for 66 Mural Drive in Boswell Park. Owen and Sosniecki have talked to John Shelton, director of Lebanon Parks and Recreation, and he is receptive to a piece of the bridge going into the park. The society’s request to MoDOT included that one of the height-limit signs go to the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Museum.

Sosniecki said MoDOT acknowledged the request at the meeting and was receptive to Lebanon getting a piece of the bridge, although MoDOT suggested a section from the side instead. If MoDOT moves forward with dismantling the bridge, it will hold discussions with the Route 66 Society and Shelton about what will be suitable for the park.

However, Sosniecki said he doesn’t expect anything to happen in the near future. “It’s clear that MoDOT wants the bridge off its system, but MoDOT is not going to set a bid date to dismantle it until the situation is resolved with the Route 66 Association of Missouri,” he said.

Rich Dinkela, president of the Route 66 Association of Missouri, spent much of the Section 106 meeting arguing on behalf of the state association taking over the bridge, and he had support from a National Trust for Historic Preservation attorney. Dinkela argued that the state association has met every requirement that MoDOT set forth, including a $3 million policy for liability insurance.

But Sosniecki said MoDOT wants insurance that covers potential damage to its adjacent Gasconade River bridges and to adjoining property, especially because of the bridge’s poor condition and the history of floods that cover the deck. Apparently the type of insurance MoDOT wants isn’t offered by anyone.

The Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society has supported efforts to save the bridge since MoDOT closed it for safety reasons in December 2014.

In other business Tuesday, the board briefly discussed the 100-mile, three-county Route 66 Yard Sale that will be held July 31-Aug. 1 in Pulaski, Laclede and Webster counties. The Route 66 Society is the sponsor in Laclede County.

Fifteen persons attended the meeting, the first time the board has welcomed non-board members to a meeting since the pandemic began. It also was the first meeting held at a new location, Taste of Andy's. The board discussed whether the meeting time should change, but no decision was made.

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