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Officials meet, discuss future of Historic Riverside Bridge in Ozark

Citizen groups hope to preserve the old bridge

October 05, 2011|by Dustin Hodges, KY3 News | dhodges@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Cars stopped crossing the historic Riverside Bridge in Ozark in September 2010; then, in March, it was closed to foot traffic.  On Wednesday, Ozark and Christian County officials, along with citizens hoping to preserve the old bridge over the Finley River, met in Springfield with the Missouri Department of Transportation to discuss the future of the bridge.  They found out its fate all comes down to money.

Several different groups representing just as many interests came together to try to come to an agreement on one thing: the future of the Riverside Bridge, which was built in 1909 for a cost of $3,700.  Some options include tearing it down and building a new one in its place, preserving it where it is and building a new one beside it, and moving it to a different location so a new one could be built in its place.

"They want a new bridge -- a new two-lane bridge -- and we want to keep the one-lane historic bridge," said Kris Dyer, who started the Save the Riverside Bridge Initiative.

Dyer and the city and county officials met with MoDOT staff members on Wednesday to try to find a solution.

"The engineers and MoDOT and everyone thought it was dangerous and it's deteriorating daily," said Christian County Presiding Commissioner Lou Lapaglia. 

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"It's a historic structure and we love it.  You can't just go tear down a historic bridge; you can't do anything you want with it," said Dyer.

"We're just trying to work together to find a solution that's acceptable to all parties and that's a challenge with so many interests," said Chad Zickefoose, a MoDOT transportation project designer.

The City of Ozark and Christian County would love to try to make everyone happy and build a new bridge at the site while still preserving the historic bridge.  They say, however, it's not going to come down to what they want to do, but what they can afford to do.

"It all hinges on the money, from MoDOT, the federal government, county and so forth," said Lapaglia.

"Cost can't be the sole basis, but it's definitely a huge consideration," said Zickefoose.

If they get the money to preserve the historic bridge and build a new one, they hope they can make everyone happy.

"That's a good alternative; we'll have two lane traffic that can handle emergency equipment and on one side we'll have a bikeway; that would be the best of everything," said Lapaglia.

"What's best is for vehicles to use it, for bikes and pedestrians to use it, and also preserve the historic structure," said Zickefoose.

The most popular idea on which everyone could agree is to move the historic bridge to nearby Riverside Park and build a new two-lane vehicle bridge in its place. The estimated cost of moving the old bridge is about $30,000 but a decision to do that hasn't been made.

Ultimately any plan will have to be approved by Christian County, the Federal Highway Administration, and the State Preservation office, all of whom had representatives at Wednesday's meeting; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  FEMA is involved because the bridge is in a flood plain.

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