The Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society board voted today (Tuesday) to donate $1,000 to the Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians for an engineering study of the threatened historic bridge at Hazelgreen.
Jax Welborn, a member of the Guardians’ board, explained that the nonprofit organization hopes to raise $10,000 for the study, which will determine what needs to be done – and at what expense – to restore the steel-truss bridge for limited use. With the study in hand, the Guardians can approach potential agencies and philanthropists to assume ownership of the bridge and pay for its rehabilitation.
The Guardians had hoped that Workin’ Bridges, an Iowa-based nonprofit, would do that, but Workin’ Bridges withdrew from the project earlier this year after philosophical differences over strategy between that organization and others in the Route 66 community. The Route 66 Society donated $1,000 to Workin’ Bridges in January, and that money was refunded.
The Guardians are operating under a May 10 deadline to apply for a grant through the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. If awarded, the grant would match the money the Guardians have raised for the study..
Welborn said the Guardians had about $5,000 prior to the donation from the Route 66 Society. As of early this afternoon, the Guardians had raised $1,551 from 19 donors through a GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-gasconade-bridge.
In making the donation to the Guardians, the Route 66 Society required that the $1,000 be refunded if it is not spent for an engineering study by the time the Missouri Department of Transportation begins tearing down the bridge. MoDOT currently is considering bids to build a new bridge to the north of and parallel to the old bridge. MoDOT has said it will tear down the old bridge at some point after the new bridge is built, but Welborn said it isn’t likely to do so as long as efforts are under way to save it.
MoDOT closed the bridge in December 2014 because of its deteriorating condition.
The Guardians issued a news release Monday outlining its strategy to save the bridge: http://www.lebanonroute66.com/bridge/guardians-give-update-on-plans-to-save-bridge/article_66971a18-4c94-11e8-9172-0349cde912cd.html.