If the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge comes down, part of it could be destined for Lebanon’s Route 66-themed Boswell Park.
A proposal that the sides of the bridge’s “pony truss” be used to create a pedestrian bridge in Boswell Park received a positive reaction Tuesday from the Missouri Department of Transportation at a “Section 106” consultation meeting, which is required to determine the impact of the bridge’s removal.
“We’re OK with that,” Karen Daniel, MoDOT senior historic preservation specialist, said about the Boswell Park plan. “That would be pretty easy to do.”
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.
The Boswell Park proposal came from Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society President Bruce Owen and Lebanon Parks and Recreation Director John Shelton. Letters from Owen and Shelton were read into the record, and Route 66 Society board member Gary Sosniecki spoke about the plan at the virtual meeting. Sosniecki said Lebanon has a good track record of getting projects like this done.
The Boswell Park proposal also included a photo of a pedestrian bridge created from a pony truss in Chelsea, Okla.
Rich Dinkela, president of the Route 66 Association of Missouri, also voiced support for the Boswell Park project. Dinkela said the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society “has done an outstanding job over its section of Route 66” and that he has “no doubt of its ability to make this happen if this is what it comes to.”
The Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society continues to support Dinkela’s efforts to save the Gasconade River Bridge in place with the Route 66 Association of Missouri assuming ownership from MoDOT. Dinkela argued vigorously at the meeting on behalf of saving the bridge. (See separate story.)
Daniel said that if the bridge isn’t saved in place, MoDOT would work with Lebanon to make the Boswell Park project happen. Later in the meeting, she explained that a transfer agreement would need to be negotiated. The agreement would include a timeline and details on how the Lebanon groups would get the pony-truss sides from where MoDOT sets them down to Boswell Park.
Of other “mitigation measures” offered by the more than 30 state and federal officials and preservationists at the meeting, nobody else asked for remnants of the bridge. Jax Welborn of the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians proposed that, if the bridge is demolished, historical markers be placed at the east and west ends of where the bridge stood. The markers would give the history of the bridge and directions to Boswell Park, where the pony truss could be seen.
MoDOT will ask agencies and organizations that had representatives at the meeting to rank their preferences of the mitigation measures with one vote per organization.