Call to Action to Save the Route 66 Gasconade Bridge

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Photo courtesy of James Baughn

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HAZELGREEN, MISSOURI- The days of the Gasconade River Bridge, which used to carry US Hwy. 66 near Hezelgreen may be numbered as it faces demolition scheduled for Spring of 2020 unless a new owner can be found.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) has placed the 95-year old bridge under a 30-day public review and comment period which is halfway through its time and is scheduled to be completed by July 5th.  The historic bridge was built in 1924 by MODOT and consists of (from west to east) one 8-panel Warren pony truss with alternating verticals, two 8-panel Parker through trusses and one 6-panel Pratt through truss, all totaling a length of 526 feet. The structure is elgible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its design that was in connection with the standardized bridge movement that started in 1910. It is also in connection with Route 66 and its history, as the Highway, connecting Chicago with Los Angeles via Tulsa and Santa Fe was in operation from 1926 until the last segment of the highway was decommissioned in 1979. Interstate 40 had suplanted the stretch of highway where the bridge is located a years earlier.

Currently, the bridge is closed to traffic and a replacement bridge is being built alongside the historic structure, which will carry a frontage road running alongside the interstate once it’s completed next year. The Gasconade Bridge used to carry that road before its closure in 2015.

Attempts to find an owner for the new bridge and restore the structure to its original glory have not been successful due to differences in planning and realization combined with lack of funding for purchase and restoration. Yet the Gasconade Bridge Facebook (click here) has garnered support from over 1200 Followers and many more who are not on the social media scene. There have been rallies and fundraisers lately and a page where you can donate to save the bridge (click here).

Still the clock is ticking and with the resources and options running out, “only a public outcry expressing significant concern and a desire to save the bridge from demolition might help,” according to a statement on the Gasconade Facebook Page. If you would like to help in convincing government officials to save the bridge, here are the contact details you Need to know before you address your support for the bridge:

E-Mail: STIPcomments@modot.mo.gov

Phone: 1-888-275-6636

Mail: Transportation Planning, Program Comments, P.O. Box 270, Jefferson City, MO. 65102.

Identify the Gasconade River Bridge in Laclede County, MO. Give them your name and where you live and most importantly, why this bridge is important and is worth saving. It must be personal; all letters copied and pasted will not be acceptable.

To provide you with an incentive to convince MODOT, here’s an interview I did with Rich Dinkela about the bridge a few years ago. Click here to view.  A pair of YouTube videos of the bridge can be found below:

If you have any suggestions to help save the bridge or are interested in buying it, please contact the Group on their Facebook page. A link to their website you will find here.

 

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Gasconade River Bridge Preservation Project Loses Support Due To Corruption from Donor

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Portal View of the Gasconade Bridge. Photo taken by Rich Dinkela

Workin Bridges withdraws support due to questions about its transparency and methods of preservation; Friends of the Gasconade Bridge regrouping to find other ways of preserving the historic bridge.

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HAZELGREEN, MISSOURI- Members of the Group Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians are regrouping after a major donor, Workin Bridges, has withdrawn support for preserving the historic bridge near Hazelgreen. According to a statement by the director Julie Bowers, the Grinell, Iowa-based organization plans to return the $6900 in donations to the members beginning this week after having been confronted by many members of the Route 66 Guardians about the organization’s credibility and transparency in terms of collecting donations and using the money for preserving the bridge.

In a statement provided by Ed Klein at Route 66 World, he stated that the lack of communication between Bowers and members affiliated with not only the efforts to preserve the historic bridge but other Route 66 organizations combined with a lack of vision was one of the key factors in leading to some discord during the project:

Actually, the Guardians were the ones who started it, and if I remember correctly they reached out to see who can help, and your group came in, on your white horse, to save the day. To be fair, it seemed like this is ‘what you do’ so at the time it seemed like a natural fit BUT as time went on and very little info was passed out and around, and the fact of any real transparency of where the money is going, we are here at this moment fighting about it.

So:

— If you feel the bridge will not be saved in the alloted time, why the continuous fundraising and donations?

— If the bridge does not get saved, what happens to the funds that were given to you to save the BRIDGE, and not for admin and travel costs?

— Is there more than one “bucket” for funds (donations for particular bridge projection versus admin and other expenses)?

— If not, why not?

— If so, why is the donations for repairing the bridge (and engineering costs) going elsewhere (like road trips)?

And for the record, I can swear on the lives of my children the vast majority of us would be RIGHT behind you and helping you, but you never once asked (other than donations) and the information we all received as a sparse, if at all.

This is not new as some have reported that there have been other historic bridge projects that were burned by the organization’s politicking, including one in Iowa where members of that group are seeking returned funding collected by Workin Bridges through legal action.

Bowers said according to MoDOT estimates, repairing the bridge would take $3.1 million, including $1.2 million in removing lead paint. This was disputed by Rich Dinkela, one of the members of the Guardians Group, claiming that the removal of lead paint from the bridge may not be a necessity in restoring the bridge.  Dinkela is one of the leaders of the group and has a collection of videos on youtube that is devoted to Route 66 (click here for details). A Revive 66 website had been planned where donations of $66 per person would go towards projects along the Mother Road, including the Gasconade Bridge. A total of $7000 had been collected before Bowers cut the cord on the project last week. That money collected was meant for marketing, yet as Dinkela mention in an interview, it was one of many grandiose ideas for the project, which included establishing an investment account, where the interest accrued from the thousands of dollars donated would be used for insurance and inspections. Another was converting the bridge into the longest bar on the route- a concept mentioned by John McNulty, manager of Grand Canyon Caverns in Arizona.

With many ideas out there that were met with scrutiny and opposition because of the practicality, combined with the lack of information regarding the actual sum for the preservation project and what is needed to restore the bridge, both sides agreed to part ways, with Bowers moving onto other bridge projects and Dinkela and other members returning to the drawing table to conceive a new plan as to how this 94-year old bridge can be saved.

But time is running out. The Missouri Department of Transportation wants to construct a replacement parallel to the historic bridge in 2019 and hopes to integrate it into some park or recreation area. However if no funds are collected to restore the bridge before the completion of the bridge and no owner is willing to step forward to own it, the Gasconade Bridge may find itself in a pile of scrap heap by 2021 at the latest.

To follow up on the events with the Gasconade Bridge, please click on the following webpages:

Route 66 News: http://www.route66news.com/2018/02/08/workin-bridges-withdraws-gasconade-river-bridge-preservation-effort/

Route 66 Gasconade Bridge Guardians: https://www.facebook.com/rt66gasconadebridgeguardians/?hc_ref=ARScgMAIJfHFAeNr3Wn7iR52zyeuArwpkFFcWrNYZDUQnrtG30uyju0RqQ04qixQ9SA

Bridgehunter.com: http://bridgehunter.com/mo/laclede/gasconade-66/

A summary of my interview with Rich Dinkela about this bridge can be found here. This includes the bridge’s history as well as its connection with the beloved highway many even outside the US love.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you updated on the latest with this historic bridge, whose future is still clouded but it is hoped the organization will come up with plans to save it as they see fit. 🙂

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Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Rehabilitation Project Being Launched

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Photo taken by James Baughn

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HAZELGREEN, MO-  The North Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA)/ Workin’ Bridges has been given the green light by the Missouri Department of Transportation(MoDOT) for a conceptual agreement to begin the fundraising efforts to actually restore the Gasconade River Bridge at Hazelgreen, Missouri. A new by-pass bridge has been designed and will be constructed in 2018 which left the historic bridge at risk for demolition. The Rte 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians have lead the effort for preservation and MoDOT agreed to let the efforts begin to find the funding required. Let me be clear, the historic bridge is still at risk for demolition unless sufficient funding for restoration can be acquired in the next fourteen months.

The four spans of the Gasconade River Bridge include two Parker Trusses, one Pratt truss and a Warren Pony Truss, built in 1923 and designed by MoDOT engineers. A current engineering estimate by MoDOT estimated repair work at over $3 million dollars. The Workin’ Bridges qualified engineers and craftsmen will assess the bridge for possible phased options and costs that may differ from MoDOTs assessment. These real numbers, captured as Scope of Work and Estimates are required so that informed decisions can be made, for potential grants. Work with MoDOT on a risk management plan for their new bridge and the Interstate 44 bridge is being negotiated. We have proposed a Trust Account that would be in place for a catastrophic event, as well as utilizing the interest for future biannual inspections and site and security.

Developers are also being sought for this property and any design ideas are welcome. Route 66 has always been a mecca for travelers worldwide and with this bridge repaired the potential for crossing on special event days may still be an option as engineering will return the bridge to its former function. For more information on how the bridge was saved and how we are moving forward together check out Workin’ Bridges: Route 66 Bridge Rehab on Facebook

Our goal is to raise $10,000 in funds. Those funds are for engineering and planning. Jacqueline (Jax) Welborn has been designated the Project Manager. She will undertake the outreach for donors to help with the immediate engineering and planning needs for the bridge. Contact Jax at rte66bridgerehab@gmail.com or call her at 573-528-1292.

Then our efforts will turn to finding the pledges, grants and in-kind donations necessary to reach our $3.5 million dollar goal by December 31, 2018. That money will go to repairing the piers and abutments that hold the spans up, the stringer and roadway replacement, floor beam repair. The deck, or at least a portion of the deck will be removed by MoDOT using their demolition funds for that purpose. The lead paint abatement solution is still to be determined.

Those efforts are currently underway. NSRGA has begun the process to become a legitimate nonprofit corporation in Missouri, then the bank accounts will be procured. In the meantime you can still donate at Workin’ Bridges: Route 66 Bridge Rehab on Facebook. Your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Other questions, please contact Julie Bowers at jbowerz1@gmail.com or 641-260-1262. Check out this project and others on Facebook at Workin’ Bridges, www.workinbridges.org and become a Save Our Bridge (SOB) action figure today.

This is a press released by Workin Bridges, who granted permission for reposting. A detailed interview about the Gasconade Bridge was done with the Chronicles and can be found here.

 

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