Legislation To Help Riverside Bridge Construction

Ozark, MO -- Plans to build a new Riverside Bridge in Ozark are moving forward after a municipal sales tax to help fund the project passed and legislation was introduced at the state and federal level.

The Riverside Bridge is owned by the Ozark Special Road District, and the City of Ozark and Christian County are contributing to the construction of a new bridge. Right now the only thing standing in the way are FEMA deed restrictions due to flooding in that area.

Ozark drivers haven't had any access over the bridge for about five of the last seven years. 

"It's really severed our ability to get from the north side of town to the center and south side of town," said city administrator Steve Childers.

"Currently, to get to one side of the bridge up to the north is an additional 15 to 20 minutes," said Andrea Sitzes, executive director of the Ozark Chamber of Commerce. 

Sitzes said that becomes an issue especially for emergency vehicles that are trying to reach a patient on either side of town. Construction of a new bridge seems to be the solution.

"We need to be able to open that back up to emergency vehicles, school buses, commercial vehicles, trash trucks," said Childers. "Anytime you are in a river community, the more river crossings that you can have clearly is a big thing."

Flooding issues with the old bridge, city officials say, won't be the case with the new one.

"The scope of work and the architecture plan for the new bridge actually raises it above the floodplain," said Sitzes.

The replacement would be about 11 feet higher than the current one and 400 feet long, which is about 30 percent longer than the historic one is now. It would be a two-lane bridge with a bike and pedestrian crossing.

"It would allow emergency vehicles to cross that bridge for the first time in the life of the bridge," Sitzes said.

The City of Ozark has secured its part of the funds through a 3/8 cent transportation initiative passed in its Municipal Election on April 4. That initiative will fund several projects around the city, including the bridge.

But FEMA restrictions are still blocking construction.

"That is really the last thing that stands in our way," said Sitzes.

That's where legislation introduced by Congressman Billy Long and Senator Roy Blunt hope to clear the path.

"If we don't have that legislation and those deed restrictions are removed, then the location for that new bridge is not there," said Childers. "And then we don't have what we need to build a bridge."

The legislation would lift the deed restrictions on the land where the new bridge would be built, within 100 feet from the current bridge. 

The Ozark Special Road District, however, has funding only through May 2019 for this project. But it is confident it can get it done by then. And Childers says he doesn't have any reason to believe the legislation won't pass.

If the bills don't pass, and the bridge project doesn't happen, the funds the city of Ozark would have contributed to this project will be directed to other transportation improvements in the city.

The 3/8 cent tax is expected to generate more than $5 million in its five years - about $1 million per year. The City of Ozark agreed to contribute a third of the total cost of the Riverside bridge project, which comes out to be $1 million. Christian County and the Ozarks Road District would each contribute another third. The entire project is estimated to cost around $3 million.

The rest of the money generated through the initiative will go toward intersection, street and sidewalk improvements.

For more information on the Ozark 3/8 Cent Sales Tax click here.

The Ozarks Special Road District says there are no specific plans for the historic bridge at this time. 


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