SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Plans for the restoration of the historic Jefferson Avenue Footbridge has been put on hold as the City of Springfield struggles to find a contractor and enough funding to make it happen.
The Jefferson Avenue Footbridge is a historic pedestrian bridge built in 1902 that spans the railroad tracks north of Historic Commercial Street.
At a Tuesday, Dec. 7 City Council Lunch Workshop, Public Works staff updated Council on the results of a bid process for the rehabilitation of the bridge.
Bid results were nearly double the cost of a roughly $3 million dollar engineering estimate on the historic structure, which was closed in 2016 due to safety concerns following a routine inspection.
Of the two bids submitted to the City of Springfield, both estimates fell between $5- and $6 million.
“There couldn’t have been a worse time to bid this project,” says Mary Collette, long-time Commercial Street advocate and President of the Commercial Club. “Perhaps if we let a little time go by things will level out a little bit, supply chain issues and material costs and even potentially the work environment.”
Assistant Director of Public Works Martin Gugel also told City Council on Tuesday the cost of the project continues to increase due to rising prices for materials and labor.
Another reason, Gugel says, is the fact that crews will have to work under several active railroad tracks throughout the entirety of the project, “With a minimal clearance between the bottom of the bridge and trains that would pass underneath.”
Mayor Ken McClure says he was discouraged by the news, saying he’s not sure what the next steps should be, although he understands the importance of bringing the bridge back up to code.
Collette says historic preservation aside, reopening the footbridge is crucial for pedestrians and bicyclists that live on Springfield’s north side.
“The most important thing that it does is it allows people to cross over these railroad tracks. You can’t as a pedestrian, bicyclist, you can’t cross the railroad tracks and get to our neighborhood to the north, between Lyon and Washington, I mean that’s like 6 blocks,” she tells OzarksFirst on Wednesday.
A detailed structural evaluation concluded that nearly 40% of the bridge needs to be repaired or strengthened and the paint system is failing and no longer protecting against corrosion.
Collette says until the fluctuating economy settles down it’s likely the gate blocking access to the footbridge will stay up. Still, she says she’s optimistic the project one day be completed.
“It’s just a matter of money and I believe that we can find it and I have full faith in our council members that support this that will find it and there are members in the community that are going to help to find some more too.”
Collette says the Commercial Club has already raised $50,000 dollars to replace the wood planks on the bridge.
The city decided on Tuesday it will likely need to secure more funding before opening the bidding process for a second time.
City Council also discussed using federal ARPA, tourism, or infrastructure funding to keep current the project alive.
Members also requested Springfield Public Works look into ways it could improve pedestrian traffic on side streets crossing Commercial Street in the meantime.